Guía básica de respuesta en redes sociales #infografia #infographic #marketing #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con una Guía básica de respuesta en redes sociales. Vía Un saludo

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Cómo evitar una crisis en Redes Sociales #infografia #infographic #marketing #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre cómo evitar una crisis en Redes Sociales. Vía Un saludo

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Marketing para eventos de la A a la Z #nfografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre Marketing para eventos de la A a la Z. Vía Un saludo

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5 consejos para un mejor trabajo en equipo #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía con 5 consejos para un mejor trabajo en equipo. Un saludo

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The Longest In-N-Out Drive-Thru Lines, As Seen From Space

We hear that In-N-Out is a very popular burger-slinging establishment. We’ll take its fans at their word, because we don’t believe in leaving the East Coast. What we do know is that the combination of tasty burgers and car culture leads to such long drive-thru lines that you can see them from space.

(Foodbeast/Google Earth)

(Foodbeast/Google Earth)

Well…from the mapping satellite images available through Google Earth, at least.

We don’t know what time of day the satellites swept over these restaurants, but there were always impressive lines waiting for burgers.

The 8 Longest In-N-Out Lines According to Google Maps [Foodbeast]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

7 predicciones sobre Redes Sociales 2014 #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con 7 predicciones sobre Redes Sociales 2014. Vía Un saludo

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Decálogo de FaceBook para empresas #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con un Decálogo de FaceBook para empresas. Vía Un saludo

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Adictos a las Redes Sociales #infografia #infographic #health #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre Adictos a las Redes Sociales. Vía Un saludo

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I+D+i en España y el Mundo #infografia #infographic #innovation

Hola: Una infografía sobre I+D+i en España y el Mundo. Vía Un saludo

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España: asignatura pendiente en I+D+i #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre España: asignatura pendiente en I+D+i. Un saludo Generado por: Actibva

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Recall Of 200K Pacifiers: While A Baby With A Mustache Is Cute, It’s Not Worth Choking Over

(From left to right: Fred & Friends Chill Baby Artiste, Panic and Volume pacifiers.)

(From left to right: Fred & Friends Chill Baby Artiste, Panic and Volume pacifiers.)

Look that baby! She’s got a mustache and a tiny little beard! Isn’t that just so adorable, because see, babies can’t grow facial hair and also she’s a girl? Sure, it might be cute, but the company behind three novelty pacifiers, Fred & Friends, has announced it’s recalling 200,000 over safety concerns. Namely, that a baby could choke on some of the parts included.

In conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as the government of Canada, Fred & Friends is recalling the Chill Baby Artiste, Panic and Volume pacifiers. On the Chill Baby Artiste, the beard can detach, as well as the knob on the Volume pacifiers, posing a choking hazard. In addition, the ventilation holes on the Volume and Panic pacifiers are too small.

Most of the recalled pacifiers are in the U.S. — 183,000 — with the rest in Canada. The pacifiers were sold at various online stores and other retailers from April 2013 through December 2013.

If you’re unsure if your hipster pacifier is one of those in question, check the name and UPC on the packaging:The Artiste’s UPC is 728987021282; the Volume style’s UPC is 728987020599 and the Panic style’s UPC is 728987020605.

So far Fred & Friends says it’s received one report of the knob on the Volume pacifier coming loose, but no injuries have been reported yet.

Pull those pacifiers from your babies’ mouths immediately, folks, and return them to Fred & Friends for a full refund. For more information, including how to get a prepaid envelope from the company to return the pacifiers, call Fred & Friends at 855-346-6372 or visit

Fred & Friends Recalls Infant Pacifiers Due to Choking Hazard []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Sears Messes Up, I Have To Face Life Without A Light-Up Skiing Santa Pig

pig skis spin_prod_871839512Mike had a simple desire. He wanted a lighted skiing pig Christmas decoration. He wanted several of them, actually. Sears had them available, so he placed an online order, choosing in-store pickup. Sears e-mailed him that his order was ready, and he happily drove 40 miles to Sears in winter weather to pick it up. If you’ve ever placed an online order with Sears, you know what happened next.

Look at the photo: if you don’t understand why he would want such a thing, we question your judgement. Heck, we’d keep those up around the Consumerist office year-round if we were able to get our hooves on one, but we can’t. The pigs were very popular and sold out.

We saw the e-mail that Mike received: the other items in his order were listed as “Processing,” but the pigs were ready. He scanned his barcode at the kiosk and waited for the clerk to come out with his pigs. He waited. The clerk came out and scanned the e-mail at the kiosk again. The pigs were not there.

“This wasn’t the first time that the Sears store clerks had no problem in making [me] stand there while they argued about what they were supposed to do on what system to deliver (or not) merchandise on the easy ‘ship to store’ promise,” grumbles Mike. Is a 40-mile round trip and waiting for people and systems to actually communicate worth a skiing pig?

Where did they go? Sears doesn’t know. We wrote to Sears with the facts of what happened and Mike’s order number, but they didn’t answer us. Based on past experiences, a few days after we publish this post, we’ll hear from two or more different departments at Sears offering their assistance without having communicated with each other. None of them will be able to bring the pigs back, of course.

You can still buy the pig decoration online now…for $130 on eBay. Mike paid a little over $25 for the two he ordered.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

It’s Not Too Late To Save Yourself: Subscribe To Consumerist’s Newsletter Today

cistnewsrobots The zombies/robots/aliens/other villainous beings are probably on their way right now, this very minute, to become our cruel overlords. And while signing up to receive Consumerist’s newsletter every week won’t save you from certain extinction, at least you’ll know a bit more about the world before you depart it.

That got dark quickly, didn’t it? But really, we want you to have all the Consumerist you can possibly handle.

If you sign up before the zombie/robot/alien destruction that is nigh, we won’t sell or rent your email and we’ll collectively breathe a gasp of relief that the world is still ours each time we send you a newsletter, which is every Friday.

Fill out the form below or OR CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE .

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Southwest, JetBlue End Up Big Winners In US Airways/American Merger

When US Airways and American Airlines finally got the go-ahead from federal regulators to get hitched, one of the conditions was that the merged company divest itself of takeoff and landing slots at airports around the country, especially at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., Southwest Airlines announced today it will be taking over half of the newly available slots.

According to the Dallas-based airline, it was the winning bidder on 27 of the 54 slots recently put up for auction by the combined airline. This will increase Southwest’s number of daily departures from 17 to 44.

Southwest says it will announce destinations, schedules, and fares for these additional flights later this quarter and expects to begin flying these new routes in the third quarter of 2014.

“Consumers who appreciate the value and reliability that Southwest and our People deliver are the real winners in this deal,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, & CEO. “Reagan has long been a convenient but high-fare airport. Southwest plans to change that by bringing much needed competition to the nation’s capital.”

Meanwhile, JetBlue says it won itself a dozen slots in the auction, increasing its daily departures from Reagan from 18 to 30.

Like Southwest, JetBlue has not announced the planned destinations but says it hopes to introduce nonstop service to cities it does not currently serve out of the D.C. area.

JetBlue says it has also reached an agreement with American that would permanently transfer eight additional slots to JetBlue.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Tremendo crecimiento de la publicidad móvil en FaceBook #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre el tremendo crecimiento de la publicidad móvil en FaceBook. Un saludo You will find more statistics at Statista

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Tendencias para restaurantes #infografia #infographic #tourism

Hola: Una infografía con las tendencias para restaurantes. Vía Un saludo

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Banks Ditched Payday Lending-Like Programs, But What’s Next?

Bank may have exited the payday lending business this month, but that doesn’t mean their next foray into small dollar loans will be any less predatory. That’s why the National Consumer Law Center is urging banks to show leadership in developing affordable credit options for consumers.

Since the beginning of January, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Regions Bank, Bank of Oklahoma and its affiliates and Guaranty Bank responded to new regulatory pressure by discontinuing their deposit advance programs. However, many of the banks said they plan to develop an alternative short-term credit option for customers.

The National Consumer Law Center wants to make sure those new programs offer affordable, responsible small dollar loan options for consumers. And one way banks can achieve that is by capping the annual percentage rate at no more than 36%.

While a 36% APR is still a relatively high interest rate for a small loan, it would be a marked improvement to the typical payday loan APR of 200-300%.

The report points out the lower rate has been endorsed repeatedly at the state and federal level, results in payments that consumers can realistically afford and gives lenders incentive to offer longer term loans with a more affordable structure.

“The foundation of every responsible loan, whether it is a mortgage or a $300 loan, is ensuring that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan while meeting other expenses without reborrowing or entering into a cycle of debt,” Lauren Saunders, managing attorney for the NCLC says in a statement.

Other criteria set forth in the document that banks should consider are:

  • Underwriting for ability to pay, not for ability to collect.

  • Amortizing installment payments instead of balloon payments.

  • At least 90 days to repay the loan.

  • No check holding or required (or coerced) automated repayment.

Banks’ deposit advance services differed little from the typical storefront payday loan operation – both offered high-interest, short-term loans meant to get consumers out of emergency financial situations, but in reality have been found to trap them in an ongoing cycle of debt.

Criticism over bank-backed short-term, high-risk loans grew louder in the past several years, both from consumers and regulatory agencies.

Last summer, a California woman told a Senate panel how a $500 loan from Wells Fargo’s Direct Deposit Advance program resulted in $3,000 in fees.

In November, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which oversee institutions such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, issued a 22-page guidance document essentially telling the banks to end payday loan-esque practices.

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

¿Sabes cual es tu generación? #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre si ¿Sabes cual es tu generación? Vía Un saludo

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Evolución de los usuarios en FaceBook #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre la Evolución de los usuarios en FaceBook. Un saludo You will find more statistics at Statista

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Starbucks Might Introduce Pre-Orders Via App, But Will It Cut Your Wait In Line?

For all the times you’ve stomped into a Starbucks with a caffeine-craving dragon inside you that that needs to be slain before you can be expected to be a human being and found yourself instead thwarted by an impossibly long and frustrating line of customers in front of you, well, salvation might be on its way. Or maybe not. Dragons!

According to a report from MarketWatch, Starbucks is maybe, possibly and perhaps mulling the idea of tweaking its app (which lets you pay for orders on your smartphone) so customers could pre-order their drinks and pay for them before ever entering a store to pick them up.

During a media conference call this week, CEO Howard Schultz told reporters: “You can assume that over time we will lead in this area.”

And while a spokeswoman confirmed that express orders are something the company is working on, there’s no details about exactly how it will work as of yet.

But the big question on your mind is probably — “Will it save me any time in that damnable line to eternity?”

Eh, maybe not, a professor of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells MarketWatch. “There’s a risk of [orders] not being ready or cold.”

Which means maybe you won’t have to speak your order out loud to the barista but you’re still going to have to wait until someone actually makes it for your, or risk a cold latte. Unless a cold latte is what you wanted and then, congratulations!

Others in the food industry have had little success in speeding up lines with pre-order apps, notes MarketWatch, citing Seamless — an app that allows you to order food from restaurants in your neighborhood, also known as “I only have to put on pants to pay the delivery guy” service as an example:

In 2013, the average wait time for all restaurants was around 23 minutes, according to a 2013 report of 8,500 restaurant managers by Long Range Systems, or LRS, which supplies software to the hospitality industry. And over the last year, 54% said wait times actually increased, 15% said they stayed the same, while only 31% said they fell.

To answer the question we posed for ourselves — will that Starbucks line ever whittle itself down? Don’t get your hopes up. You’ll just have to learn to tame that caffeine dragon inside of you.

Previously: Starbucks Admits That Its iPhone Mobile Payment App stores Unencrypted Personal Info

Will pre-ordering shorten wait at Starbucks? [MarketWatch]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

FCC OKs Tests That Would Replace Copper Landlines

We told you earlier today that the FCC was scheduled to vote on whether or not to allow landline telephone service providers to initiate regional tests that would replace existing landline networks with Internet-based VoIP phone service. The Commission has met and agreed that it will permit regional tests to move forward.

Telecoms are not required to take part in these tests, and surely some smaller companies will just let the bigger guys like Verizon and AT&T incur the costs of running these trials. Additionally, consumers in test markets will not be required to switch to VoIP service but will be given the option by their landline provider.

Even though there are several VoIP services available — from Skype and Vonage to phone service that comes bundled with TV and Internet service from cable companies — those existing services have never been considered as replacements for an area’s entire network of copper phone lines. The telecoms ultimately want their VoIP services to completely take the place of existing landline service.

Removing that old copper network from the equation is cause for concern for some consumers and advocacy groups who worry about interoperability of networks, compatibility of VoIP with business systems like credit card machines and alarm systems, and public safety. What happens when there’s a power outage?

Thus, the FCC says these regional tests will be used to “ensure that the nation’s communications networks continue to provide the services consumers want and need in this era of historic technological transformations.”

Among the Commission’s requirements for any VoIP network that replaces landline service:

• Public safety communications must be available no matter the technology

• All Americans must have access to affordable communications services

• Competition in the marketplace provides choice for consumers and businesses

• Consumer protection is paramount

Telecoms interested in these regional tests must submit proposals to the FCC by Feb. 20. There will then be a public comment and reply period lasting until March 31, with the FCC making its final decisions at its May meeting.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Super Bowl Ticket Scalpers Need A Hug Because Nobody Is Making Them Rich This Year

With thousands of tickets still available on StubHub and elsewhere for merely exorbitant prices, Super Bowl ticket scalpers are unable to charge their usual extortionate rates.

With thousands of tickets still available on StubHub and elsewhere for merely exorbitant prices, Super Bowl ticket scalpers are unable to charge their usual extortionate rates.

Can we pause for a moment to reflect on the plight of the lowly Super Bowl ticket scalper? He toils thanklessly for his art and all he asks in return is that you pay him several thousands of dollars to watch a football game in which you probably have no personal stake. With heartless, penny-pinching fans taking a risk by purchasing their Super Bowl tickets through “legitimate” means, this year’s scalpers may be forced to sink to selling NHL or NBA tickets just to pay the rent.

One scalper tells NY Magazine he’s been making football fans’ dreams come true by selling them insanely overpriced tickets to a game that is available to watch for free just about anywhere in the world, but that the lack of interest in this year’s game has made it the “worst Super Bowl ever.”

“Nobody likes the cold weather, they always want a warm climate,” explains the veteran scalper, ignoring the fact that there have been Super Bowls in cold weather cities, just not outdoors, and that baseball stadiums in cold-weather cities have been selling out NHL Winter Classic games that are played outdoors in January. “Usually around this time I’d be up $20 to $30,000. Last year, New Orleans was beautiful — I made $40,000. New York, I don’t know why they did it. I’d be happy if I make $5,000.”

Did you hear that? He may only make a profit of $5,000. Assuming he’s been pounding the pavement trying to sell his tickets for a full 50-hour week, that means his hourly wage was only $100/hour. And we’re sure he’s going to pay taxes on whatever profits he makes.

As of right now, folks with $1,450 in their pockets can still get tickets via StubHub, which currently has more than 3,400 tickets available for Sunday’s game. And that’s only a fraction of the tickets that people are trying to sell on other sites or that scalpers are pushing on the streets of Manhattan

That’s a significant drop from a week ago, when the least expensive ticket was $2,700.

“They’re dropping, and they are dropping fast,” another old-timer ticket scalper tells NY Magazine. “It’s going to be freezing out there. The people I deal with, the brokers firm I work with, it was on the board for $3,000, now it’s half that.”

He admits that he did sell some tickets for $7,000 recently and that he has made $6,000 in commission thus far.

A third scalper predicts that gameday tickets will be sold at bargain-basement price.

“I believe these are going to go down to $500,” he claims, looking into his scalper’s crystal ball. “You’d wait until the day of the game, and then you’d go over there to the stadium.”

Or just watch the game from home and spend that money on really good food (or invest it for your retirement).

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Mayonnaise Defeats Ketchup For The Title Of Condiment King In America

You squirt it on burgers, dip your fries in it and maybe you even use it as a substitute for tomato sauce (nod judgments). But alas, ketchup is not king of condiments in these United States. No, it would appear that the tile of Most Popular goes to that polarizing condiment, mayonnaise.

While it seems that people either love mayo and couldn’t handle a sandwich without it, others basically shrivel up inside their own bodies in horror and disgust if you simply mention the stuff.

Despite that, we’re eating about $2 billion worth of mayonnaise every year, reports Quartz, compared to the spare $800 million we’re downing in ketchup. So maybe it’s Prince Ketchup to you.

In third place, perhaps at the Duke level, is soy sauce, which rang in at about $725 million last year. Barbecue sauce is deserving of an earldom at $660 million and now I’m imagining a condiment kingdom beyond my wildest dreams, though the titles would likely need to be properly sorted out.

Mayo owes its newfound popularity to its general ubiquity in sandwiches, deli salads or even in a sushi roll. Then there’s the whole low-fat mayo option, which has seen its market double since 2005. And also people like my former roommate who would just spread it on toast if there was no butter available, which again, no judgment. Just kidding, I totally judged her.

Quartz has a neat graphic showing the various condiment levels, color-coded by the hue of each condiment. Check it out in the source below but make sure you’ve already had lunch or you’ll start dreaming of the tuna melt to end all tuna melts.

Ketchup isn’t the king of American condiments. Mayonnaise is [Quartz]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Toyota Halts Sale Of Popular Vehicles, Because The Possibility Of A Seat Fire Is Bad

Seat heaters provide a warm, cozy welcome to your frigid car; that is as long as it doesn’t catch fire. That possibility has Toyota halting the sale of its most popular vehicles after discovering the padding in seat heaters doesn’t meet flammability standards.

Popular models, including the 2013 and 2014 Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma and 2014 Corolla and Tundra, are being sidelined until the seat heaters can be replaced, USA Today reports.

The problem was discovered when the Korean Automotive Test and Research Institute found the fabric backing material used in seat heaters did not meet U.S. vehicle flammability standards. A spokesman for Toyota said the issue affects thousands of vehicles, but did not have a specific number.

A recall of vehicles already sold isn’t planned, the spokesman tells USA Today. The company has not received any complaint about fires in seats of the affected vehicles and only vehicles made at Toyota’s U.S. plants are affected. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will make its own decision on how to proceed with the issue.

This isn’t Toyota’s first issue with a heat related problem in their vehicles. In September, the company recalled 369,000 vehicles worldwide (235,000 in the U.S.) for possible problems with heat damage in two hybrids and a possible defect in engine bolts in Lexus vehicles.

Toyota halts sale of key models over safety issue [USA Today]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

GoDaddy Admits Maybe It Should Have Helped User With Hijacked Account

Earlier this week, developer and long-time Twitter user Naoki Hiroshima lost his coveted, valuable Twitter handle (@N) after hackers took control of his personal website via GoDaddy and held it hostage until he released the account. Last night, GoDaddy finally admitted that maybe it should have listened to Hiroshima when he first contacted the company.

In a statement to, GoDaddy’s Chief Information Security Officer offered up something that is as close as Hiroshima will probably get to a public apology:

Our review of the situation reveals that the hacker was already in possession of a large portion of the customer information needed to access the account at the time he contacted GoDaddy. The hacker then socially engineered an employee to provide the remaining information needed to access the customer account. The customer has since regained full access to his GoDaddy account, and we are working with industry partners to help restore services from other providers. We are making necessary changes to employee training to ensure we continue to provide industry-leading security to our customers and stay ahead of evolving hacker techniques.

For those coming late to this story, Hiroshima had staked a claim on the @N Twitter handle back in 2007. Since then, he’d received numerous offers — up to $50,000 — from people who wanted the account and had fended off countless attempts to wrest the account from him via less legitimate means.

Then a clever hacker called PayPal and convinced someone there to give him the last four digits of Hiroshima’s Social Security number. With this info, the hacker called GoDaddy — through which Hiroshima had registered the URL for his personal site — and convinced the rep to let him guess multiple permutations of the first two digits of the Social Security info.

Once the hacker tricked GoDaddy, he was able to take control of Hiroshima’s site and the e-mail addresses associated with it. He held the site hostage in exchange for the @N Twitter account.

Hiroshima made multiple attempts to get assistance from GoDaddy but was told each time that the company could not help him because he was no longer listed as the current owner of the site.

The @N account is still in the hands of someone other than Hiroshima, who Tweeted last night (via his account @N_is_stolen) that “It seems that Twitter simply ignored my claim and let somebody grab @N freely.”

PayPal also addressed the gaffe in its blog last night, but in a much more defensive tone.

“We have carefully reviewed our records and can confirm that there was a failed attempt made to gain this customer’s information by contacting PayPal,” writes the company, while not admitting that this “failed” attempt still resulted in Hiroshima’s Social Security number being compromised.

“PayPal did not divulge any credit card details related to this account. PayPal did not divulge any personal or financial information related to this account,” continues the post. “This individual’s PayPal account was not compromised.”

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Pizza Hut Makes 7-Cheese Flower-Shaped Pizza In Hong Kong

pizza-hut-hong-kong-flower-shaped-cheesy-7-pizzaPizza Hut keeps pushing the envelope (or is it pushing the large flat cardboard box?) when it comes to crusts, introducing a 3-cheese crust here in the United States, and inflicting sunflower-shaped bacon cheeseburger-pizza hybrids on overseas markets. Yet no matter how much we make fun of them, The Hut continues to innovate. Like the seven-cheese stuffed-crust pizza now available in Hong Kong.

It’s called the Cheesy 7 Sensation Pizza, because you will feel the cheesy sensation of indigestion when you eat it. In addition to a mind-boggling array of cheeses, the pizzas feature fancy toppings arranged decoratively. there are two versions of the pizza: the Pineapple & Pastrami Pork version has pepperoni, pastrami, pineapple, olives, and tomato sauce.

The Crayfish & Scallop version has crayfish, baby scallops, cucumbers, peaches, olives, and lobster sauce. That sounds like a discarded shopping list that you’d find wadded up at the bottom of your basket at the grocery store, not the topping content of one pizza.

What are those seven cheeses on the pizza? Mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, Monterey Jack, Romano, cheddar, and cream cheese.

Around the World: Pizza Hut Hong Kong – New Flower-Shaped Pizza for Chinese New Year [Brand Eating]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

When The “Toy” In A Happy Meal Is Actually Heroin… Well, You See Where This Is Going

It seems it must be somewhat irresistible to use fast food as a fast way to deliver drugs to customers. In yet another tale of heroin at McDonald’s, a worker in Pennsylvania was arrested and accused of selling heroin in Happy Meals. Customers simply had to say, “I’d like to order a toy.”

Which is silly, because all Happy Meals come with toys and you don’t have to order them special. So there’s the first clue. reports that the 26-year-old worker was busted after police said undercover agents were able to buy heroin from her while she was at work at McDonald’s.

Authorities say they’d gotten a tip that someone was peddling the drug and set up a controlled buy at the restaurant this week to check it out.

Drive-thru customers would simply pull up and announce their intent to buy a “toy,” and upon arriving at the first window would hand over $82 and receive a Happy meal box with the heroin inside. The second window was simply skipped.

Cops say they recovered 10 stamp bags of heroin inside one Happy Meal box and another 50 bags from the suspect.

DA’s office: Woman accused of selling heroin out of McDonald’s Happy Meals []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

New System Addresses Military Members’ Complaints Of Higher Education Abuse

It’s hard to believe some higher education institutions deceptively target veterans and servicemembers, but it does happen. To better ensure veterans’ and servicemembers’ input is being heard the federal government has launched a new reporting system to streamline consumer complaint investigations.

Several federal agencies launched a new online complaint system for veterans, servicemembers, and their families, who use Post 9/11 GI Bill and other military education benefits, to report on issues with higher education institutions, including for-profit colleges.

The Federal Trade Commission, along with the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Education, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created the customize online reporting form to gather input on abuse by higher education institutions regarding attendance, marketing, graduation rates, program quality, employment prospects and course credit. The complaints can be made directly with the DoD or VA.

The complaints, which will be forwarded to the VA, DoD and DoE beginning next month, will help the government identify and address fraudulent and deceptive practices targeted toward service members.

“Veterans should get truthful information when they choose how and where to use their military education benefits. Unfortunately, that may not always be the case,” Jessica Rich, director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the announcement.

For-profit colleges have a shady reputation for lying to students and using funds for non-educational purposes.

Last October, the California Attorney General filed suit against Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and it subsidiaries for lying to students about prospects of job-placement and the alleged illegal use of military seals in advertisements.

In early 2013, several attorneys general supported legislation that would have limited the amount of federal money, including the GI Bill, that for-profit schools could spend on advertising. The legislation came after studies showed that for-profit colleges, which received more than $32 billion dollars in Federal Aid, spent inordinate amounts of money on things other than education.

The new complaint system, and newly announced tips to help servicemembers, veterans, and their families choose higher education institutions to reach their goals, are part of the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012.

Federal Government Launches New System to Gather Complaints From Military Veterans and Servicemembers Regarding Higher Education Institutions [Federal Trade Commission]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Microsoft Offers $100 Credit For People Who Trade In PS3 For Xbox One

You can trade in your PS3 for $100 off an Xbox One, or you can just buy a PS4 that is already $100 less expensive (photo: jpghouse)

You can trade in your PS3 for $100 off an Xbox One, or you can just buy a PS4 that is already $100 less expensive (photo: jpghouse)

Want an Xbox One but you’re put off by the $499 sticker price? If you’re willing to part with your PS3 or certain newer models of the Xbox 360, and you live near a Microsoft store, there’s a deal you might be interested in.

Microsoft is currently offering a $100 trade-in credit for customers who bring in their old PS3, Xbox 360 E or Xbox 360 S (the two models still currently in production) to Microsoft stores and buy a new Xbox One.

That brings the Xbox One price down to $399, which matches the cost of Sony’s new PS4 console.

As The Verge points out, a new PS3 still goes for about $200 so trading in an old one for $100 in credit against a new console might be a better deal than you’re likely to get trying to sell the used console.

The Xbox 360 trade-in is trickier, as this offer is only limited to relatively newer models of the console, meaning those of us with 360s older than many elementary school kids are out of luck.

Of course, regardless of which console you trade in, you’re giving up access to all the games you purchased over the years, as the Xbox One is not backwards compatible, nor has Microsoft revealed specifics on a plan that would give Xbox One owners online or cloud-based access to all those games.

So PS3 owners with a decent library of games may just want to hold onto their consoles and spend $399 on a PS4 (when it has more than a handful of titles available to play).

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Smartphone Traffic Apps: Are You Gambling With Your Commute?

Gone are the days of simple radio traffic reports and plotting out your travel route before hitting the road. Today, commuters use a variety of smartphone apps designed to show real-time traffic and travel times. But is banking on an app to give you the fastest route really effective?

Navigation apps, such as Google Maps or Waze, highlight the fastest routes and provide a quick glimpse of your upcoming commute. The shiny, convenient apps offer a great resource to commuters, but they don’t have all the answers to your commute problems.

From a map showing just how long a traffic jam extends to alternate routes available, the apps are a useful tool for drivers looking to shave time off their commutes. But still, the apps, which are mostly based on users’ GPS coordinates and rely heavily on commuter reports, aren’t always the most reliable way to get around.

For one, they can’t predict the future.

Officials with the Minnesota Travel Observatory tell the Star Tribune that the apps can tell you an estimated travel time, but that’s only accurate assuming nothing out of the ordinary occurs – like an unexpected snowstorm.

Additionally, more populated areas tend to have more accurate traffic apps.

For instance, the Star Tribune reports, the Twin Cities has approximately 200,000 Waze users. Officials with Waze say that’s enough to create up-to-date maps. While officials don’t say less populated cities have less accurate apps, the utilization of user data and input would suggest that if less people use the app in an area, the traffic patterns wouldn’t be updated as frequently. And in the past inaccurate maps have cause problems for commuters – remember the Google Maps debacle back in 2012?

Sometimes traffic apps only add to commuter problems. If an incident, such as a traffic jam occurs, an app will give commuters the suggestion of an alternative route. When too many users take that suggestion it can create yet another jam.

While traffic apps are convenient and provide great interactive elements, sometimes the experience of well-established traffic monitors trumps the new technology.

State departments of transportation, like the Minnesota Department of Transportation, have been tracking traffic patters for decades using a combination of construction updates, road conditions and hazards reported by the State Patrol. That information is readily available to commuters by calling 511.

Traffic reporters often use information provided by local DOTs and other information, such as weather reports, to offer a more comprehensive travel plan for commuters.

So while traffic apps are a convenient option, sometimes nothing beats hearing your traffic report from an actual person.

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Study: Most Supermarket Coupons Pile On The Savings For Junk Food, Sugary Drinks

There you are, making sure every single store coupon you can possibly use is going to cut down on that grocery bill. But while the prices are slimming down with the discounts offered by supermarkets, the foods with the most discounts could be expanding your waistline.

In a new study published this month in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease (PDF here), researchers found that most of the coupons grocery stores offer (which excludes manufacturer coupons) online or via loyalty reward programs rack up discounts on high-calorie foods like crackers, chips, desserts, processed prepared meals and sugary drinks.

On the other hand, there are barely any price cuts on healthier items like lean meats, low-fat dairy products or fresh fruits and veggies.

This could contribute to our nation’s obesity epidemic, researchers say, as people are often shopping on a budget and rely on those coupons to be able to buy enough food to live on.

“We know from other studies that when you lower the price of foods, people buy more of them,” study author Dr. Hilary Seligman tells “When junk foods are the foods stores are lowering the prices of, we shouldn’t be surprised that more of them are purchased.”

The study took into account 1,056 online store coupons that were offered over a 4-week study period in April (when there wouldn’t be any added holiday discounts offered) and found: The biggest piece of the coupon pie went to the 25% for processed snack foods, candies, and desserts and that about 12% of coupons were for beverages, more than half of which were for sodas, juices, and sports/energy drinks.

Then there were the coupons for fruits (less than 1% of the total) and vegetables (only 3%). That could be attributed to the fact that retailers make more money from processed items and could possibly lose money on discounted produce, since they already end up throwing away plenty of unsold products.

Because many use coupons to stretch their food budgets along with aid from the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), you better believe customers are going to take whatever discounts they can, whether healthy or unhealthy for them. SNAP usually provides about $4.50 to feed one person for a day.

“The bottom line is that people are spending $4.50 on what they are eating,” study author Seligman says. “The only way to do that well or without feeling hungry often is to take advantage of the specials that grocery stores are offering. When all the specials are for candy, sweets and processed foods, it doesn’t give the low-income consumer many choices.”

But researchers think that if grocery stores incentivized more healthy food items, it could help the public eat healthier.

“Recent work emphasizes the importance of the food environment and other external forces on the quality and quantity of food consumed,” the study explains. “Grocery retailers may be uniquely positioned to positively influence Americans’ dietary patterns.”

Online Grocery Store Coupons and Unhealthy Foods, United States []

Most Supermarket Coupons Promote Junk Food, Sugary Drinks: Study []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Chef Apologizes For Calling Yelper “Mentally Ill Raging Alcoholic”

Oh Yelp, thou art a ceaseless font of stories about restaurant customers overreacting to bad meals and service and the chefs who make headlines by flipping the f&@! out on social media about a review that most people would probably have ignored to begin with.

The latest tale of Yelps gone wild comes to us from Eater Boston, which reports that the chef at a Medfield, MA, wine bar has issued a public apology after countering a 1-star Yelp review by calling the customer a “mentally ill raging alcoholic.”

It all began over a 1-star review posted on Yelp by a customer who that after dinner she and her fellow diner wanted to try some scotch when, “All of a sudden, the manager came to our table and told us to leave because he thought we had too much to drink. He insisted that he could not serve use any thing [sic] more including coffee and to just leave,” according to the review.

“We paid the hefty check of $180 with cash and left totally embarrassed,” continues the write-up. “He even threatened to call the police when I protested that we each had no more than 3 drinks and maybe we should have coffee before driving… Needless to say it was a very unpleasant and disturbing experience.”

It’s certainly a negative review, but it could also have gone ignored as the business already has dozens of reviews on Yelp with a 4-star average.

But rather than respond with a calm explanation of its side of the case, the restaurant’s chef wigged out and took to ranting online, writing on Facebook that the Yelper in question “neglects to mention that our restaurant had to get a RESTRAINING order against her because she is clearly a mentally ill raging alcoholic that causes a major scene every time she comes near our restaurant. She doesn’t mention that the police were on scene either.”

He also writes the commonly stated complaint by restaurants that the review wasn’t being filtered out by Yelp because the restaurant doesn’t pay to advertise with the site.

The chef has subsequently pulled his statements and issued an apology via Eater.

“I sincerely apologize for expressing my frustration with a guest’s review on social media,” saying that such a vitriolic response is not the way his restaurant “responds to guest feedback and my words do not reflect the hospitality-first philosophy of the team here.”

The chef was within his rights to defend his business against the negative review, and if the statements about the police being called and restraining orders being issued are true, then these are relevant facts to be used to discredit the 1-star write-up. All that said, this information didn’t need to be presented in a way that makes the chef look as reactionary as the customer.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Pizza Hut Manager Accused Of Serving Spitty Pizza To Cop Who Arrested Her For Drunk Driving

Some memories are best forgotten: A Pizza Hut manager, who was arrested for drunk-driving in 2013 after knowingly letting an intoxicated person drive her car, happened to recognize a customer at her restaurant — the officer who’d busted her — and allegedly retaliated with an extra topping of saliva on his order.

According to the Smoking Gun, the manager was arrested for disorderly conduct in Tennessee after the off-duty cop claimed he saw her spit on the pizza he’d ordered for his family last week. She’d apparently recognized him from her arrest back in April of last year.

The deputy arrived to pick up his dinner order but said that the suspect didn’t have to ask his name, and instead just rang up the order. So he sat down on a bench to wait for his food.

“As the defendant removed the pizza from the oven I observed her cut her eyes and look at me. The defendant then leaned over the pizza that she had began to slice and I observed her spit on the pizza which had been purchased by me,” he wrote in the police report.

When he confronted her and asked if she knew him, she replied yes, and said his name. He’d cited her last April, but had just appeared in court for it a week earlier. She’d pleaded guilty in the DUI case and was fined $350, sentenced to two days in jail, and placed on probation for one year.

According to the sheriff, the conviction was fresh on the suspect’s mind when she allegedly hocked a loogie on the pizza, an action the police called “just a retaliation.”

She’s been charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and was reportedly fired from her job at Pizza Hut.

Cops: Pizza Hut Manager Spit On Officer’s Dinner [The Smoking Gun]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Gree Adds 21 Models Of GE Dehumidifiers To Massive, Slow Recall

If you have a GE dehumidifier in your home, time to check the serial number: Gree Electric Appliances has recalled 350,000 dehumidifiers sold between April 2008 and December 2011 because they could potentially overheat and cause a fire. If this recall sounds familiar, it should: Gree already recalled 2.2 million dehumidifiers sold under brand names that you might recognize like De’Longhi, Frigidaire, and Kenmore. Customers have complained to Consumerist that this recall has been slow and crappy.

The biggest complaint that readers have about the recall is that the checks are very, very slow. They complain that their checks still aren’t here four months after sending in their information, and at least one reader’s submission has disappeared entirely.

Once the checks arrive, they’re small and insufficient. Large dehumidifers aren’t cheap–the recalled Gree models cost between $180 and $270, so customers. Checks generally don’t cover the entire amount that consumers paid for their appliances, and in many municipalities, consumers have to pay a recycling fee for appliances of this size.

Anyway, check the list of recalled GE models if you have one in your home. If you have any dehumidifiers at all that you’ve bought in the last six years or so, you should probably check the recall list just in case.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

U.S. Wants To Add $1.23 Billion To Bank Of America’s Tab For Countrywide Scam

Back in October, a federal jury found Bank of America liable for a Countrywide Financial program that deliberately sold piles of worthless loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the housing bubble went kaflooey. At the time, prosecutors had only sought $864 million in penalties, but now the Justice Dept. claims that number should be $2.1 billion.

The subject of the government’s lawsuit was a former Countrywide program dubbed the High Speed Swim Lane (better known as the “Hustle”), which removed many of the existing roadblocks and safety checks of the loan underwriting process in order to approve as many home loans as possible in a short period of time. The DOJ alleged that Countrywide’s motive for the Hustle was to issue these loans then quickly sell them off to Fannie and Freddie without disclosing that some of the mortgages weren’t worth their value in Monopoly money, let alone U.S. currency.

The original estimate of $864 million presented by the feds was an estimate of actual losses taken by Fannie and Freddie on these toxic loans. But then the judge in the case asked the DOJ to think about its penalty request not in terms of loss, but in terms of Countrywide’s ill-gotten gains.

Reuters reports that during the trial, the DOJ’s evidence showed the Countrywide only made a profit of $165.2 million from these loans, but the number presented in yesterday’s court filing bases the $2.1 billion number on the failed lender’s gross gains rather than the net.

The DOJ, which has not exactly been bullish about seeking maximum penalties from the nation’s largest banks and its executives, is asking the court for the higher amount “punish defendants for their culpability and bad faith, and to deter financial institutions and their executives who would engage in similar fraudulent mortgage schemes.”

Yesterday’s filing also seeks a $1.1 million penalty against former Countrywide exec Rebecca Mairone, accused of running the Hustle program for Countrywide. Hopefully she’ll be able to afford it, as she later moved on to work for JPMorgan Chase to run its foreclosure review department.

Bank of America continues to deny its liability in this matter, saying the Hustle was over and done with before it swooped in to save the collapsing Countrywide — a move that has already cost BofA at least $40 billion in penalties, settlements, loan adjustments, and legal fees. The bank has previously said it would consider appealing the jury’s finding.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Jack In The Box Debuts “Bacon Insider” Burger With Bacon/Beef Frankenpatty, 6 Strips Of Bacon

Don't even have to ask where the bacon is.

Don’t even have to ask where the bacon is.

Did someone mention bacon? Oh that’s right, I did, three times in the headline. I had to, because the Jack in the Box chain has apparently left its finger on the bacon button and refused to let up. Its new “Bacon Insider” burger not only has bacon+beef patty, but layers six slices of bacon on top and adds a bacon mayo.

Our friends over at point out that this is the first beef/bacon frankenpatty blend for a national burger chain.

And then there are the bacon trimmings on the tree. Err, burger. Eating a tree would be weird: Above and below the patty are half strips of hickory-smoked bacon for a total of six, as well as the generous daubs of bacon mayo sauce on both sides of the brioche bun.

The lettuce, American cheese and tomato just seem to be there to see what all the fuss is about. “Hey, you can eat us too, but we’re sorry we’re not part of the baconpalooza.”

“It’s a triple-threat bacon burger,” Jamie Vanderwal, Jack in the Box Category Leader told in an interview. “Really this goes above and beyond any bacon burger we’ve done before.”

All that bacon doesn’t come cheap — it’s $4.99 as a stand-alone item or $6.59 for a combo of fires and drink. It’s on sale for a limited time — or as long as bacon supplies last, perhaps?

Jack in the Box Intros Beef/Bacon Burger Patty []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

FCC To Consider Move Toward Ditching Existing Landline Networks

Over the last 15 years, a huge number of consumers have abandoned standard fixed-line telephone in favor of wireless phones or VoIP phone services from their cable/Internet providers. Between this shift and numerous natural disasters that have resulted in costly damage to existing landline networks, companies like AT&T and Verizon have been pushing to replace those old copper lines with their own VoIP services.

Today, the FCC is scheduled to vote on whether or not to allow regional trials that, if successful, would be the first step toward the end of the road for the copper landlines.

According to the Wall Street Journal, participation in any regional trials would be voluntary for consumers, meaning you wouldn’t be forced off your existing phone line and onto a VoIP service during the 3-6 month duration of the trial unless you ask to be switched.

However, an FCC official tells the Journal that the participating telecoms could choose to offer only VoIP service to new customers during these trials.

Since landline companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink are considered common carriers by the FCC, any VoIP service they provide in lieu of standard landline phone service would be held to a higher standard of reliability than existing providers like Vonage or Skype.

Some consumers, especially those in rural areas that have been under-served by wireless and fixed broadband service, have expressed concern in recent years about telecoms’ lack of maintenance or investment in existing copper networks. They fear that merely flipping the switch from landline to VoIP could be fraught with problems.

“We do not have any organized data on whether call quality goes down, what breaks and what doesn’t when you switch over to IP,” explains Harold Feld of advocacy group Public Knowledge, which says that proper trials are necessary to see that millions of Americans aren’t stuck with substandard, glitchy service.

Of particular concern is whether the VoIP services will work with necessary business hardware like faxes, credit card readers, ATMs, and alarm services. When Verizon recently deployed its wireless Voice Link landline replacement service in storm-ravaged Fire Island, NY, none of these important connections could be made. In the end, Verizon chose to scrap Voice Link and run a new fiberoptic network to the island.

“This isn’t just about voice,” says Feld. “The phone system is a platform. It’s been an open platform for 40 years, which is why everything hooks into it.”

The unnamed FCC official is cautious about jumping to conclusions about these tests before they’ve happened.

“These will be end user impact trials. Let’s not talk theoretically; let’s look at what actually happens,” the official tells WSJ. “Let’s learn.”

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Target Says Hackers Used Stolen Vendor Credentials To Breach System

Two months since criminals first began stealing credit and debit card information via Target’s in-store payment system, the retailer is providing the first details on how the breach may have been made possible.

“The ongoing forensic investigation has indicated that the intruder stole a vendor’s credentials, which were used to access our system,” a Target spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement.

Though Target isn’t identifying the vendor or the form of the credentials that were used, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs has revealed some details that might shed some light on what happened.

Krebs reports that an analysis of the malware used in the breach shows that the user account “Best1_user” and password “BackupU$r” were used to log in to a shared drive that had been set up by the hackers on Target’s internal network to collect all the stolen card information.

“That ‘Best1_user’ account name seems an odd one for the attackers to have picked at random, but there is a better explanation,” writes Krebs. “That username is the same one that gets installed with an IT management software suite called Performance Assurance for Microsoft Servers. This product, according to its maker — Houston, Texas base BMC Software — includes administrator-level user account called ‘Best1_user.’”

by Chris Morran via Consumerist