Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2016
  4. October

News in October 2016

Browse by year

2016

Browse by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    How to prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby

    Set the stage for a harmonious future by teaching your pup how to interact with the baby

    Although opinions on the term pet “parent” may vary, there’s no denying the fact that pet ownership is a big responsibility. In households without children, dogs often get lavished in especially large amounts of love and attention.

    So what’s Fido to think when suddenly a tiny human enters the picture? While he may soon bond with the new addition, your dog may not immediately be thrilled by the presence of a screaming, time-stealing infant.

    Studies show that dogs, like humans, can experience feelings of jealousy and insecurity. For this reason, it can be beneficial to prepare your pup for the arrival of a new baby. The preparation process can begin as soon as you find you’re expecting, but pet owners should continue helping their dog adjust as the baby grows.

    Preparing while pregnant

    Your dog probably has a daily routine. It’s important to start changing that routine to match whatever the dog’s new routine will be once the baby arrives, says Michael Wombacher, a professional dog trainer and author of "Good Dog, Happy Baby."
    How soon should dog owners be implementing these changes? Writing for CNN, Wombacher notes that it “depends on your dog and how deeply embedded into your routine she is.”

    Expectant parents can begin shaking up the routine a month before their due date or the moment the pregnancy test turns positive. What’s important is that the dog not be given any reason to negatively associate the changes with the baby.

    At 8 months old

    Does your dog have soft, tuggable ears or a wagging tail that looks irresistible to grab? By 8 months of age, your baby will probably begin noticing -- and reaching for -- some of the more sensitive body parts on your fur-covered family member.
    During the months leading up to this tactile phase, you can prepare your dog by conditioning him to be used to awkward grabbing and pulling. Wombacher notes that it’s also vital that dogs be given a “safe zone” to retreat to if the baby’s touching becomes too stressful.

    It is during this phase that parents can also teach the family pet not to confuse dog toys with baby toys. The two types of toys may be similar in appearance and in noise-making ability, but Wombacher says dogs can easily learn how to distinguish between what’s theirs and what isn’t.

    How? Simply dab a little Listerine on the baby’s toys and teach your dog that the scent of Listerine equals an "off" command.

    At 14 months old

    When your little one has gone bipedal, you can begin creating opportunities for structured, positive interactions between your child and your dog. This can include games, rudimentary pseudo-training, and more.
    During each of these phases, it’s important to remember that dogs and babies should never be left unattended together. But teaching your pooch how to interact with the newest member of the pack from the beginning can help pave the way for a harmonious and loving future, says Wombacher.
    Although opinions on the term pet “parent” may vary, there’s no denying the fact that pet ownership is a big responsibility. In households without children...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

      By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      Southwest reaffirms its stance on not charging baggage fees

      CEO Gary Kelly spares 'no thought whatsoever on charging bags'

      The airline industry can be a harsh business. In a world where money is king and companies are always looking out for the bottom line, not scraping in revenue from every available source is practically unheard of.

      However, “practically” may be the operative word. Southwest Airlines has been under pressure to generate more revenue. The company is the only one of the largest commercial airliners in the U.S. that doesn’t charge a baggage fee, so the money is there for the taking. But, according to a Los Angeles Times report, CEO Gary Kelly has stated that the company won’t be doing that, at least for now.

      “We have a unique and beloved position in the industry with this approach and we would be foolish to squander it, so no thought whatsoever on charging bags,” Kelly said in a recent quarterly earnings call.

      Southwest woes

      The decision to let bags fly for free is great for consumers, but it potentially costs Southwest millions every year. Last year, the top 13 airline companies raked in $3.8 billion in bag fees, along with another $3 billion in charges that consumers paid for changing or canceling flight reservations – another service that Southwest doesn’t charge for.

      As a result, investors have cranked up the heat on the company to start tapping these revenue streams. Recent earnings reports haven’t been very favorable; last quarter’s earnings were down by nearly $200 million year-over-year, and the recent technology outage in July cost the company dearly. Kelly also cites increased competition as a major factor in the company’s bad fortunes.

      “The fare environment is very competitive and we have seen an increase in competitor seats in our markets that is fairly significant year-over-year,” he said.

      The CEO says that he has plans to bring in more revenue soon, though he remained tight-lipped about what those plans actually involved. “Well, it’s just not ready for prime time. And I’d rather not share with our competitors where we see opportunities for a variety of reasons,” Kelly explained.

      The airline industry can be a harsh business. In a world where money is king and companies are always looking out for the bottom line, not scraping in reve...
      Read lessRead more

      Hospitals show some improvement in safety

      But an estimated 200,000 Americans still die from medical errors

      When people are seriously ill or injured, they are usually admitted to a hospital. But it turns out that a hospital may not exactly be the safest place to find yourself.

      In the past, hospitals didn't always have access to the latest treatments. Today, most have excellent capabilities, but they don't always have the resources or systems to handle the patient load. This can lead to breakdowns in safety that can result in patient injures and infections.

      According to Leapfrog, which conducts annual hospital reviews, hospital mishaps kill over 200,000 Americans each year, making hospital mistakes the third leading cause of death in the United States.

      Making the grade

      Since not all hospitals are alike and some have much better safety records than others, it might be prudent to consult the data before selecting a hospital. In the latest Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, which judged 2,633 hospitals and assigned letter grades, 844 earned an "A," 658 earned a "B," 954 earned a "C," 157 earned a "D" and 20 earned an "F."

      That means 57% of hospitals were ranked as either “excellent” or “good,” and only 6% were found to be “poor” or a “failure.” Of course, that's small comfort for patients admitted to that 6% of hospitals.

      Leapfrog found that geography sometimes plays a role, with some states able to attract the best hospital administration and best medical talent. North Carolina is a prime example. It was ranked 19th in spring 2013 for the number of “A” rated hospitals. In the current ranking, it's number five.

      Idaho has moved from number 45 – the the bottom of the list in 2013 – to number two today, one reason that the state has begun to attract more retirees. At the same time, Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., have no “A” rated hospitals.

      Not equally competent

      "In the fast-changing health care landscape, patients should be aware that hospitals are not all equally competent at protecting them from injuries and infections,” said Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder. We believe everyone has the right to know which hospitals are the safest and encourage community members to call on their local hospitals to change, and on their elected officials to spur them to action.”

      You might think with hospital errors causing so many deaths each year, health policymakers would carefully keep track of them. However, they don't. The 200,000 figure is only an estimate.

      As we reported earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins have called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a category for hospital errors, much as it has for other health threats. The researchers say cancer and heart disease tend to get most of the attention. They say that since "medical errors" isn't an official category, it doesn't get the funding it needs.

      You can find out how hospitals in your area ranked here.

      When people are seriously ill or injured, they are usually admitted to a hospital. But it turns out that a hospital may not exactly be the safest place to...
      Read lessRead more

      IRS unveils 2017 pension plan limitations

      There's no change in the limit for 401(k) contributions

      An increase is on the way from the Internal Revenue Service pertaining to income ranges and determining eligibility for making deductible contributions to traditional IRAs, contributing to Roth IRAs, and claiming the saver’s credit.

      You can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if you meet certain conditions. For example, if during the year either you or your spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated -- depending on filing status and income. If neither is covered, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.

      Next year's phase-out ranges

      • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $62,000 to $72,000 -- up from $61,000 to $71,000.
      • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $99,000 to $119,000, versus $98,000 to $118,000.
      • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $186,000 and $196,000 -- up from $184,000 and $194,000.
      • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

      The new income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $118,000 to $133,000 for singles and heads of household. This year it was $117,000 to $132,000.

      For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is now $186,000 to $196,000, versus $184,000 to $194,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

      The income limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $62,000 for married couples filing jointly, up $500; $46,500 for heads of household, up $375; and $31,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up $250.

      No change for these limitations

      • The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains at $18,000.
      • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains at $6,000.
      • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA is unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

      Details are outlined in IRS Notice 2016-62.

      An increase is on the way from the Internal Revenue Service pertaining to income ranges and determining eligibility for making deductible contributions to...
      Read lessRead more

      Jury awards $70 million in baby powder cancer case

      Plaintiffs charge Johnson & Johnson knew of alleged cancer risk; the company denies it

      Concerns that women were unknowingly placing themselves in danger by using baby powder for feminine hygeine date back to 1971, when gynecological researchers first documented finding talc particles in ovarian tumors.

      Nine years later, in 1982, researchers made the first connection between ovarian cancer and talcum powder, finding in a control group of 215 women with ovarian cancer that ninety-two, or 42.8% of the women with cancer in the study, "regularly used talc either as a dusting powder on the perineum or on sanitary napkins compared with 61 (28.4%) controls."

      Since that landmark study, "dozens more followed confirming the association," says a new study evaluating the possible link, headed by Harvard researcher Dr. Daniel Cramer, who also published the 1982 study. His more recent research, published in May 2016, again associates genital use of talc with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

      Did companies know of the risk?

      In recent years, lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over its marketing of baby powder have piled up, with an estimated 1,200 claims pending.

      Plaintiffs like Deborah Giannecchini, who has Stage 4 ovarian cancer, say in court testimony that the company should have warned women not to use the product on their genitals. Instead, however, the company marketed baby powder to adult women, the lawsuits contend.

      One old print advertisement tells "grown-ups" that baby powder will make them feel "cool, smooth and dry."

      On October 27, Giannecchini's lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson ended in her favor, with the jury finding against the company and delivering a whopping $70 million verdict.

      In closing arguments, Giannecchini's attorney reportedly told the jurors that Johnson & Johnson executives had known about the link between talc use and ovarian cancer for years but falsified medical records to cover it up. Cramer, the Harvard researcher, has also testified in lawsuits that he had warned J&J; since 1982 to place a warning label on their baby powder, to no avail. Johnson & Johnson has said they will appeal the verdict.

      Three major verdicts In 2016

      The Giannecchini verdict follows a $72 million verdict a St. Louis jury slammed Johnson & Johnson with last March and a $55 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson that a South Dakota jury made in May. "It was really clear they were hiding something," the foreman of the St. Louis jury told Bloomberg News.

      J&J; denies cancer link

      Johnson & Johnson continues to insist there is no link between the use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer.

      Asked why they didn't consider the research dating back to 1971, Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich directed ConsumerAffairs to FactsAboutTalc.com, a website created by Johnson & Johnson. "The science is all there on the website," Goodrich said.

      Concerns that women were unknowingly placing themselves in danger by using baby powder for feminine hygeine date back to 1971, when gynecological researche...
      Read lessRead more

      Zika risk may extend to all adults, not just pregnant women

      Researchers find that certain brain cells found in adults are affected by the disease

      At the beginning of the year, Zika emerged as a top health threat when it gained a foothold in Latin America. Panic ensued as people began to realize that the virus was extremely dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children, since cases of microcephaly – a previously rare birth defect -- began rising dramatically.

      Since then, scientists and researchers have learned a lot more about the Zika virus and prevention efforts are ongoing. However, a new discovery by researchers from The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology raises concerns that Zika may not only be dangerous to pregnant women – it could be extremely dangerous to everyone.

      Their study using mice models suggests that Zika targets certain adult brain cells related to learning and memory. While the long-term effects are uncertain, it’s possible that the virus could lead to cases of depression or the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

      "This is the first study looking at the effect of Zika infection on the adult brain. . . Based on our findings, getting infected with Zika as an adult may not be as innocuous as people think,” said researcher Joseph Gleeson.

      Progenitor cells

      The researchers believe the cells that are primarily affected by Zika virus are progenitor cells. This class of cells are, in effect, the original stem cells of the brain. When we are developing in the womb, the brain is made up almost entirely of progenitor cells that eventually form neurons that are common in healthy adult brains.

      While researchers believe that fully formed neurons become resistant to Zika virus, the progenitor cells are still susceptible to it; it provides somewhat of an explanation for why unborn children develop birth defects and adults seem unaffected by the disease. However, pockets of progenitor cells remain in adult brains even after they have developed. The researchers say these pockets are closely linked to learning and memory, and that Zika could still negatively impact them.

      "Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc. . . But it's a complex disease -- it's catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for," said professor Sujan Shresta of the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology.

      Dramatic results

      To test their theory, Gleeson, Shresta, and their colleagues infected mice models with a mimic of the Zika virus and scanned their brain for activity. The scans were meant to light up in sections of the brain that were most affected, and the two areas of the brain where progenitor cells resided did just that.

      "Our results are pretty dramatic -- in the parts of the brain that lit up, it was like a Christmas tree. . . It was very clear that the virus wasn't affecting the whole brain evenly, like people are seeing in the fetus. In the adult, it's only these two populations that are very specific to the stem cells that are affected by virus. These cells are special, and somehow very susceptible to the infection," said Gleeson.

      There is currently not enough far-reaching data to know exactly what could happen to adults affected by the disease, but Gleeson cautions that memory and learning problems are a distinct possibility, as well as conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s. "In more subtle cases, the virus could theoretically impact long-term memory or risk of depression, but tools do not exist to test the long-term effects of Zika on adult stem cell populations,” he said.

      Monitoring the disease

      While the researchers believe that healthy adults should be able to effectively fight the virus, they say that elderly people or those with weakened immune systems could be more at risk than previously thought. They suggest that public health officials be mindful of the study and begin monitoring it on a larger scale.

      "The virus seems to be traveling quite a bit as people move around the world. Given this study, I think the public health enterprise should consider monitoring for Zika infections in all groups, not just pregnant women,” said Gleeson.

      For now, the study will most likely serve as an opening investigation into how Zika affects adult brains. Scientists will have to find out if progenitor cells can recover from the virus’ damage, if there are any lasting biological consequences, and to what degree the adult brain is affected.

      The full study has been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell

      At the beginning of the year, Zika emerged as a top health threat when it gained a foothold in Latin America. Panic ensued as people began to realize that...
      Read lessRead more

      Privacy groups generally pleased with new broadband rules

      Now they'd like to see the rules expanded to other areas of the internet

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has gotten mostly praise from privacy and consumer groups for its new rules giving internet users more control over how their internet service provider (ISP) uses their personal information.

      On one hand, they say the rules are a huge improvement over the status quo. On the other hand, they say the protections could have been more extensive.

      There are three main provisions that give consumers the power to determine whether, and to what extent, their ISP may profit from the information it collects about them.

      What the rules do

      First, consumers must specifically agree, by “opting in,” to allow their sensitive information to be shared with anyone else. The rule specifies what categories of information are considered sensitive. These include your location, financial data, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications.

      ISPs would be allowed to use customers' non-sensitive data unless the customer specifically opts out. Non-sensitive information might include email addresses or service tier information.

      ISPs do not need permission to use customer data to bill and collect for services. For consumers, no action is required to block ISPs from profiting from personal information. Consumers must take the step of “opting out” if they want to block ISPs from using non-sensitive information.

      Reaction

      Privacy advocates generally hailed the move. Guarav Laroia, policy counsel for Free Press, said the new rules aren't perfect but make big strides forward.

      “That’s because under any sensible interpretation of the communications laws that govern the FCC, the companies that carry all of our speech online have no business profiting from all the information they gather without our consent,” he said in an email to ConsumerAfffairs. “Today’s rules simply give people more choice when it comes to safeguarding their most private conversations and decisions online.”

      Consumer Watchdog also welcomed the new policy, but said it would like to see these rules extended to cover the rest of the internet.

      "Today's FCC action gives broadband users significant control over their information. It's a major step forward in protecting consumers' privacy," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog privacy project director. "But the FCC action only covers ISPs.”

      Simpson said the rules should also cover the so-called internet edge providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. He held out the possibility that extension could take place through legislative action.

      Even parts of the industry found things to like in the rules. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) said the final rules are much better than the FCC's original draft, and praised the agency's “sensitivity” to the concerns of small, mostly rural wireless ISPs.

      But the group said it remains concerned that certain uses of non-sensitive customer information will be subject to opt-in consent.

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has gotten mostly praise from privacy and consumer groups for its new rules giving internet users more control...
      Read lessRead more

      Now it's Soylent food powder that's causing gastric distress

      The company withdrew its snack bars just a few weeks ago

      A few weeks ago, we reported that Soylent was withdrawing its snack bars because they were making people sick. Now the venture-backed start-up is withdrawing its food powder because -- you guessed it -- customers say it's making them sick.

      The company says it doesn't know just what the problem is but suspects -- logically enough -- that there is a common ingredient in both products that's to blame. Soylent premade drinks have, so far, not caused any problems, the company says.

      Soylent, based in Los Angeles, is trying to change how people eat. Forget the all-natural organic stuff, it's going straight for food powder. Just add water and the resulting goop will contain all the "protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and micronutrients that a body needs," according to the company's website

      Or so company founder Rob Reinhardt believes. The twenty-something engineering graduate doesn't have a background in nutrition or biology but he became annoyed at how much trouble it was to prepare food while crashing on projects, so decided to invent his own.

      Popular with programmers

      Soylent, spelled the same as the human-based food featured in the 70s science-fiction film "Soylent Green," is said to be quite popular with Silicon Valley programmers who have trouble turning aside from their coding long enough to wolf down a sandwich. 

      Soylent is a little vague about the exact ingredients, saying merely that its products "use bioengineered algae as a source of lipids and essential omega fatty acids.

      "Produced efficiently in bioreactors, rather than on farmland, these single-celled organisms require far less resources than traditional agriculture," we're told. "Bioreactor" sounds pretty cutting-edge but is basically a fancy term for a vessel in which a chemical process is carried out -- a beaker, for example. 

      Soylent swears it is hot on the trail of whatever is causing the problem and says when it figures it out, it will so advise the Food and Drug Administration, which has so far remained silent on the Soylent issue.

      Upon completing this somewhat snarky article, by the way, the author realized that, while writing it, he had himself nibbled through a Cliff Bar rather than delay publication by taking time for lunch. So far, no ill results. 

      A few weeks ago, we reported that Soylent was withdrawing its snack bars because they were making people sick. Now the venture-backed start-up is withdrawi...
      Read lessRead more

      How to make sure your child's Halloween costume is safe

      Tips to help parents avoid costume-related health and safety dangers

      For children, picking out a costume is often half the fun of Halloween. But parents have the responsibility of making sure that every element of their child’s costume is safe.

      Not every look-completing accessory or article of clothing your child chooses to don on Halloween may be safe. Before allowing kids to head out for a night of trick-or-treating, parents should know that their child’s costume won’t cause any frightening consequences.

      Face makeup and other popular Halloween accessories can cause irritation and infection, while the fit of the costume itself can also cause problems. To help ensure kids’ safety on Halloween, it can be smart to take the costume for a test run a few days before the big night.

      Using costume caution

      Here’s what parents can do ahead of Halloween to make sure their child’s costume is safe, according to Jill Creighton, MD, Medical Director of Ambulatory Primary Care Pediatrics.
      • Test makeup beforehand. Two to three days before Halloween, parents can test out non-toxic face makeup on their child’s arms to make sure there’s no skin reaction. After the kids are home from trick-or-treating, make sure to wash off all makeup to avoid eye and skin irritation.  
      • Avoid decorative contact lenses. As we reported, decorative contact lenses aren’t always safe or even legal. They can impair vision, cause an infection, and irritate the eye. Creighton recommends not allowing children to wear decorative contact lenses at all.
      • Prevent trip-ups. Costumes and shoes should be checked by parents to make sure they fit properly. Creighton notes that a baggy costume that drags on the ground may cause trips, slips, and falls. Oversized high heels can also cause falls.
      • Choose fire-resistant fabrics. Costumes and accessories should be flame-resistant, just in case your child brushes up against a candle-lit Halloween decoration during the night.
      • Keep kids visible. The U.S. National Safety Council recommends placing reflective tape on costumes and trick-or-treat bags to help other people and motorists see children after the sun has set. Choosing light-colored costumes can also keep kids from blending into the night. 
      For children, picking out a costume is often half the fun of Halloween. But parents have the responsibility of making sure that every element of their chil...
      Read lessRead more

      How the presidential election is affecting consumers' holiday spending this year

      The National Retail Federation says uncertain consumers are being more cautious

      With November just around the corner, many consumers across the U.S. would normally be shopping up a storm for the upcoming holiday season. While that’s still sort of true this year, a report from the National Retail Federation shows that many are modifying their plans. Why, you might ask? Well, it has something to do with another important event happening in early November.

      According to an NRF flash poll conducted earlier in October, a quarter of consumers said that the upcoming presidential election will impact their spending for the holiday season. Forty-three percent said that they would be more cautious with their spending due to the uncertainty of who will win the race.

      NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says the campaign season has also forced retailers to delay advertising for holiday deals, which may have affected consumers.

      “Everywhere you turn – whether you’re picking up a newspaper or watching television – political advertisements are taking up ad space that retailers typically use to get holiday shopping on the minds of consumers across the country,” he said.

      However, NRF says that while spending will be down from last year, it will still be at a relatively high level. The association estimates that consumers will spend an average of $935.58 on gifts for others, self-spending, food, flowers, decorations, and greeting cards for the holidays. That’s a decrease of $17 from last year, but it’s the second highest total since 2004.

      “Once the election has passed, we anticipate consumers will pull themselves out of the election doldrums and into the holiday spirit,” said Shay. “Retailers should prepare for a rush of consumers in the weeks following the presidential election as they get more economic and political certainty and are looking to take advantage of promotions and deals that are too good to pass up for their friends, family and even themselves.”

      Self-spending increases

      NRF also predicts that self-spending will increase this holiday season, as consumers try to take advantage of good deals. Poll results indicate that 58% of shoppers plan to buy something for themselves; NRF predicts that consumers will spend an average of $139.61 on these purchases, up 4% from last year.

      “Many shoppers are taking the approach of ‘one for you, two for me’ this holiday season. Retailers are preparing by offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions – items shoppers want to give as great gifts at prices so good they want to buy for themselves too.”

      Spending on others will still eclipse self-spending, though, as the NRF says consumers will spend an average of $588.90 on gifts for family and friends.

      When it comes to where they’ll shop, consumers indicated that they’ll split their time pretty evenly between department stores (57%), online sources (57%), and discount stores (56%). Online shoppers will be looking to take advantage of free shipping as much as possible, though some will pay a little extra by opting for expedited shipping (17%) or same-day delivery (10%). 

      With November just around the corner, many consumers across the U.S. would normally be shopping up a storm for the upcoming holiday season. While that’s st...
      Read lessRead more

      H-E-B recalls star chairs due to fall hazard

      Weld defects can cause the armrest to detach from the base

      H-E-B is recalling about 650 Brazos Embossed star chairs.

      Weld defects can cause the armrest to detach from base, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

      The company has received one report of the armrest detaching from the base. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Brazos Embossed star chairs that are brown metal with welded construction and an embossed star design on the back of the chair.

      The white hangtag on this item has the following product identification: UPC number 8502430906 and item code number 194781. The chair is 24 inches wide and 33.5 inches high.

      The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at H-E-B stores in Texas from February 2016, through September 2016, for about $60.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chair and return it to the store where purchased for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact H-E-B at 800-432-3113 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.heb.com and click on “Recalls” for more information.

      H-E-B is recalling about 650 Brazos Embossed star chairs.Weld defects can cause the armrest to detach from base, posing a fall hazard to consumers....
      Read lessRead more

      Three highly rated airline credit cards

      Consumers who travel a lot might benefit from one of these

      Consumers should be aware by now that there are big advantages to using a rewards credit card, and in particular, a card that rewards certain things.

      For example, most consumers are probably better off with a cash-back credit card, which pays as much as 2% on all purchases or as much as 5% on certain categories.

      But frequent air travelers might profit more from using a card that rewards in miles. We've identified three such cards that are worth a look.

      Capital One VentureOne Reward

      Consumers who carry the Capital One VentureOne Reward Card earn an unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, making it easy to rack up miles. As an added bonus, there is no annual fee – a rarity in this class of credit card.

      When you earn 100 miles, you've earned $1 dollar in travel rewards. But the rewards come a lot faster for new cardholders, who get 20,000 bonus miles if they make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of card activation.

      You can redeem your miles as a statement credit. As added perks, the rewards don't expire and you can carry a balance the first year without paying any interest.

      Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard's Rewards

      Another good choice for frequent travelers is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard's Rewards Card. You earn two times the miles on all purchases.

      Right off the bat, new cardholders get 50,000 bonus miles if they spend $3,000 in the first 90 days of card activation. That adds up to a $500 travel statement credit.

      The miles don't expire and you get 5% miles back every time you redeem, to use toward the next redemption. There's an $89 annual fee, but it's waived the first year. The card also has a 0% introductory balance transfer rate for 12 months if the transfer is made within the first 45 days.

      Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

      For consumers who find themselves flying Delta most of the time, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express might be a good fit. It pays two miles for every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta, and a mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

      New card members earn 30,000 bonus miles if they make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of card activation and earn an extra $50 statement credit just by making a Delta purchase during that time.

      There are also some air travel-specific perks as well. Card members can check their first bag for free on every Delta flight, saving $100 on a round-trip. They also enjoy jumping to the head of the line with priority boarding.

      There's a $95 annual fee, but it's waived the first year.

      Consumers should be aware by now that there are big advantages to using a rewards credit card, and in particular, a card that rewards certain things.Fo...
      Read lessRead more