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The company says the offline viewing feature is perfect for consumers without a reliable internet connection11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this month, we reported that Netflix was mulling over the possibility of an offline viewing feature. The company had stated that it was thinking of...
Cheap gas has led consumers to buy more SUVs and trucks, thwarting clean-air goals11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sticking with its aggressive fuel-economy standards, though for how long no one knows. President-elect Trump's...
New York law creates harsher penalties for users of ticket bots
Lawmakers hope that consumers will no longer have to compete with software when buying tickets11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The holiday shopping season officially kicked off this past weekend with Black Friday, and consumers are scrambling to pick up the goods they want. One pop...
The holiday shopping season officially kicked off this past weekend with Black Friday, and consumers are scrambling to pick up the goods they want. One popular kind of gift this year will be a gift of experience, like tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event.
Unfortunately, demand for tickets far outweighs supply most of the time, so it’s up to consumers to try and grab them as soon as they become available online. However, many buyers often walk away with nothing because the tickets seem to magically disappear within minutes or even seconds.
While slow internet speeds or bad luck can play a factor, one reason for the lack of available tickets has been the existence of ticket bots -- software used by scalpers that manipulates sales systems to buy up as many tickets as possible. Then, after all the available tickets are gone, they sell them at ridiculously inflated prices to desperate consumers.
However, the practice may become less common thanks to a new law signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Previously, state laws had banned the use of ticket bots and imposed civil penalties on violators, but now the use or control of ticket bots, or reselling tickets knowingly obtained by ticket bots, is a class A misdemeanor.
The classification change means harsher penalties for those who break the law. Violators can now expect exorbitant fines or even jail time if they’re caught using or knowingly benefitting from the software. The definition of a “ticket bot” has also been expanded under the new law to mean any system, whether autonomous or human-controlled, used to quickly buy up tickets before the general public has access to them.
Predatory and wrong
Ticket bots have long-been abhorred by performers in New York. Back in June, Lin-Manuel Miranda – creator and original lead of the Broadway hit Hamilton – railed against users of ticket bots and how the profited from his show; The New York Times reported that scalpers made around $15.5 million from reselling tickets to Miranda’s last 100 shows before stepping down from his role as the titular character.
“My concern is that our show is about the founding of our country and if bots are buying up all the tickets and charging this insane secondary market price, most of the country can’t see it,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo agreed with the sentiment in a recent statement, saying that “these unscrupulous speculators and their underhanded tactics have manipulated the marketplace and often leave New Yorkers and visitors alike with little choice but to buy tickets on the secondary market at an exorbitant mark-up.”
“It’s predatory, it’s wrong and, with this legislation, we are taking an important step towards restoring fairness and equity back to this multi-billion dollar industry.”
Use these techniques while raking, mowing, or using other lawn equipment11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Been meaning to corral and remove the fallen leaves from your yard? Before you pick up your rake, consider the fact that yard work can cause upper or lower...
Older Android devices are susceptible to the malware11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
An attack campaign dubbed Gooligan has infected more than 1 million Google accounts, with 13,000 new devices being breached each day, according to Check Po...
What are Millennials looking for in a rental?
Property owners take note: ‘smart’ features are in amongst Millennials11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Millennials who don’t have their hearts set on home ownership quite yet may be looking to rent for just a little while longer, and many may be settling int...
Millennials who don’t have their hearts set on home ownership quite yet may be looking to rent for just a little while longer, and many may be settling into a multi-family dwelling. So what are these consumers looking for in an apartment?
To find out, Schlage recently polled 1,000 U.S. renters in multi-family dwellings. Their findings revealed two key trends: a desire for tech upgrades and the integration of next-generation access control features.
Willing to pay more
These findings are significant, considering nearly half of renters in multi-family dwellings are expected to rent an apartment for the next five or more years, Schlage noted.
- 55% of Millennials are likely to pay more for an apartment that has high-tech door locks compared to ones that did not.
- 20% of Millennials would pay more per month for a smart apartment. On average, they would be willing to pay about a fifth more for smart home features.
- 44% of Millennials would give up a parking space to live in a “high tech” apartment.
Smart home trends
While smart home systems are currently highly sought after by Millennial renters, features such as keyless entry are likely to become commonplace in the not-too-distant future.
Respondents also believe that smart apartment apps are on the horizon. Sixty-three percent agreed that in 10 years apartments will need to offer all renters smart apartment apps.
The advocacy groups had asked auto safety regulators to require automatic emergency braking on new cars11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Three consumer advocates have sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to act on a petition asking it to require automat...
OPEC deal sends oil prices soaring
Analysts says prices at the pump likely to rise in the short run11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The OPEC oil cartel members, meeting in Vienna, have agreed to production limits in an effort to push the price of oil higher.The markets reacted immed...
The OPEC oil cartel members, meeting in Vienna, have agreed to production limits in an effort to push the price of oil higher.
The markets reacted immediately, with the price of crude jumping more than 6.5% to $48.22 a barrel in early trading in New York.
Two years ago, OPEC member Saudi Arabia launched a huge increase in production in an effort to drive down the price of oil. It took that self-defeating action to try to drive American shale oil producers out of business and regain market share.
It was partly successful but caused major economic distress for many other oil producers, such as Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. The Saudis, who are bearing the brunt of the production curbs, were forced to act as Iranian oil, blocked for years by sanctions, has begun flowing back onto the market.
It's been good for consumers
While U.S. oil producers have suffered over the last two years, consumers have enjoyed reasonable gasoline prices. Adjusted for inflation, today's national average price is less than it was 50 years ago.
The question consumers may be asking is what OPEC's agreement does to the price at the pump. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, says consumers should expect to see a jolt at the pump in the short term.
“There’s been a lot of hype about OPEC’s possible cut, and they had to act on their threats,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “Expect no sub-$2 a gallon national average if the deal holds.”
Currently, the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular has ticked up two cents from Tuesday, to $2.15 a gallon. That's more than 11 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.
Long-term outlook brighter
But long-term, DeHaan says the outlook for gasoline prices may be brighter for motorists. If the markets begin to doubt that OPEC members will abide by the agreement – and their history in that area is pretty checkered – then oil prices could begin to drift lower again.
“International Energy Agency (IEA) data will be paramount to see if OPEC is acting on the cut, which I suspect they will not,” DeHaan said. “Too much was on the line here, this agreement is held together by knock off scotch tape. Just one member ignoring quotas is enough to throw the integrity of it all away.”
DeHaan says he expects few OPEC members will actually abide by their quotas. If that's the case, consumers could see only moderate increases in fuel prices in the second half of next year, if they see them at all.
The complaint was filed in Georgia, using the state's food libel law11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Popular TV host Dr. Oz is no stranger to controversy. His health claims and advice have often been challenged, especially when it advocates one particular...
Too much, or the wrong combinations of these common medications can be lethal11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers take drugs and supplements to promote health, but some common pills that might be in your medicine cabinet could cause serious liver damage if ta...
Employers expect to hire fewer people in 2017
But the reason for the lowered expectations isn't clear11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Despite a steadily improving economy and a “Trump rally” that has sent Wall Street soaring, America's employers appear to be dialing back their hiring plan...
Despite a steadily improving economy and a “Trump rally” that has sent Wall Street soaring, America's employers appear to be dialing back their hiring plans.
A survey from DHI Group, Inc., a data analysis firm, found 56% of hiring managers expect increased hiring levels in the first half of 2017. While encouraging, it's a six-point drop from six months ago and a five point drop from when they were asked the same question a year ago.
Even 68% of employers who focus on hiring IT professionals have lowered their targets, even though technology jobs have been among the hardest to fill.
Taking longer to fill jobs
The survey also found that vacant staff positions are taking longer to fill. About half of hiring managers say the time it takes to fill open positions has lengthened since last year, which at the time was the longest since the survey began.
Again, the job openings in the tech sector appear to be the ones that take longest to fill. That suggests that the reason hiring managers are lowering their outlook for 2017 might have more to do with the competitive landscape than any expectations about the economy.
"Finding the right candidates for the right positions continues to be a challenge for America's hiring managers as demand for highly skilled professionals creates tension and competition among employers," said Michael Durney, President and CEO of DHI Group. "To combat the time a position remains unfilled, recruiters are turning to sourcing and services which speed efficiency. But, professionals remain ultimately in control and are asking for more money during the recruiting process."
New hires cost more
Rising wages could well be another reason that employers expect to scale back in the coming year. If they have to pay more to fill a position, they may try to consolidate resources or leave positions open for longer periods of time. The fact that 59% of hiring managers expect they'll have to pay more to hire new people in 2017 suggests the pay issue could be a key factor in a slowing labor market.
The U.S. economy added 161,000 new jobs to the economy in October – a slowing from earlier in the year – and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%. Last week Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer suggested the U.S. economy is very close to full employment, if not there already.
Job creation rebounds in November
You can thank a surge in the services sector11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
More jobs in the goods-producing sector disappeared in November, but thanks to a big jump in the number of new positions in the services sector, it was a s...
More jobs in the goods-producing sector disappeared in November, but thanks to a big jump in the number of new positions in the services sector, it was a strong month for job creation.
According to the ADP National Employment Report, private sector employment increased by 216,000 jobs from October to November.
Gainers and losers
Goods-producing firms took a huge hit during the month, losing 11,000 jobs. Manufacturing was the biggest contributor ( -10,000 jobs), along with Natural resources and mining (-4,000). Construction, however, added 2,000 payroll positions.
Those losses, though, were offset by creation of 228,000 jobs by service-providing companies. The gains were led by trade/transportation/utilities (+69,000), professional/business services (+68,000), and administrative/support services (+47,000). The information industry lost 10,000 workers.
"Businesses hired aggressively in November and there is little evidence that the uncertainty surrounding the presidential election dampened hiring,” said Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. “In addition, because of the tightening labor market, retailers may be accelerating seasonal hiring to secure an adequate workforce to meet holiday demand, although total expected seasonal hiring may be no higher than last year's."
Large businesses were the biggest job creators, adding 90,000 new payroll positions -- most of them (76,000) by companies with more than 1,000 employees. That was closely followed by medium-sized businesses, which added 89,000 workers and small businesses with 37,000 hires.
"This growth was seen in primarily consumer-driven industries like retail and leisure and hospitality -- across all company sizes,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and head of the ADP Research Institute. “Overall, consumers are feeling confident and are driving the strong performance we currently see in the job market."
The report, produced in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, is derived from ADP's actual payroll data and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
Overall mortgage applications drop during Thanksgiving week
However, applications for adjustable-rate mortgages were higher11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After a strong increase a week earlier, mortgage applications were on the decline last week.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell...
After a strong increase a week earlier, mortgage applications were on the decline last week.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell 9.4% in the week ending November 25, which includes an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Refinance Index plunged 16% from the previous week, taking the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 55.1% of total applications -- the lowest level since June.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity, on the other hand, rose to 5.7% of total applications -- its highest level since June. The average loan size for purchase applications reached a survey high at $312,400.
The FHA share of total applications dipped to 10.4% from 11.7% a week earlier, the VA share dropped .8% to 11.7%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.8%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose seven basis points -- from 4.16% to 4.23%, its highest level since July of last year, with points increasing to 0.41 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) shot up from 4.04% to 4.18%, its highest level since July 2015, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA increased to its highest level since July 2015 with a ten basis point-increase to 4.00%, with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages jumped from 3.35% to 3.48% -- its highest level in 25 months, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs slipped to 3.23% from 3.24%, with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Key gauge of home prices zooms to new high
Many cities hit post-recession peaks11/30/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Home prices in September continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months.According to the S&P; CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Hom...
Home prices in September continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months.
According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, the National index was up 5.5% on a year-over-year basis.
The 10-City Composite jumped 4.3%, while the 20-City Composite was up 5.1%.
Seattle, Portland, and Denver enjoyed the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last eight months. Seattle led the way with an 11.0% year-over-year increase, followed by Portland at 10.9% and Denver with an 8.7% advance.
In all, 12 cities reported greater price increases in the year ending September 2016 versus the year ending August 2016.
“The new peak set by the S&P Case-Shiller CoreLogic National Index will be seen as marking a shift from the housing recovery to the hoped-for start of a new advance” said David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “While seven of the 20 cities previously reached new post-recession peaks, those that experienced the biggest booms – Miami, Tampa, Phoenix, and Las Vegas -- remain well below their all-time highs.”
Before seasonal adjustment, on a month-over-month basis, the National Index posted a September gain of 0.4%, with both the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite up 0.1%.
After seasonal adjustment, the National Index rose 0.8%, the 10-City Composite was up 0.2%, and the 20-City Composite advanced 0.4%.
Fifteen of 20 cities reported increases in September before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, all 20 cities saw prices rise.
Blitzer said the market is showing several positive signals, including a rise in sales of existing and new homes and new-home construction at a post-recession peak.
Energy Transfer Partners built its controversial pipeline in Iowa via eminent domain and slipshod science, locals testified11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
“We adamantly oppose this pipeline going through our farm,” says a letter signed by Francis and...
Health officials say a woman from Brownsville contracted the disease from a mosquito bite11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
U.S. health officials have become increasingly worried about the Zika virus over the past year. The disease, which can cause serious birth defects if contr...
It could make it easier to cut the cord11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
AT&T; is offering three video streaming services, making use of new and existing content tie-ins. On November 30 is will begin marketing DIRECTV NOW.Th...
Autopilot ads should be reined in, consumer group argues
Consumer Watchdog wants rules limiting hype about self-driving cars11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Carmakers should be a bit more circumspect in their claims for self-driving cars, a California consumer group thinks. Consumer Watchdog wants the Californi...
Carmakers should be a bit more circumspect in their claims for self-driving cars, a California consumer group thinks. Consumer Watchdog wants the California Department of Motor Vehicles to ban misleading ads that leave the dangerous – and sometimes fatal – impression that a car is more capable of driving itself than is actually the case.
The nonprofit group referred the DMV to its new video documenting how Tesla hyped its vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, clearly leaving the false impression the cars were self-driving.
In a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson wrote:
“Tesla, with its promotion of its so-called ‘Autopilot’ feature, is a prime example of the deadly consequences of such unjustified hype. Chairman Elon Musk has repeatedly extolled the Tesla’s self-driving virtues to clearly leave the impression that the vehicle is autonomous."
“Two drivers who were misled by Tesla’s Autopilot hype, one in China and one in Florida, are dead after fatal crashes,” the letter continued. “Tesla’s response now, in direct contradiction to Musk’s ‘Look Mom, No Hands’ hype, has been that the drivers should have been paying attention and should have had their hands on the steering wheel.”
Too long to wait
DMV has a pending regulation that would provide that “a vehicle cannot be advertised as autonomous in California unless it meets the definition of ‘autonomous’ specified in Vehicle Code §38750 and the autonomous vehicle regulations,” but because the rule is part of a larger regulation package, it probably will not be enacted for at least a year.
Simpson's group says that's too long to wait.
“Currently there is nothing to stop the sort of hype spouted by Elon Musk with its potentially deadly consequences,” Consumer Watchdog’s letter said. “DMV should extract the advertising regulatory language from the rest of the draft autonomous vehicle regulations and start a formal rule-making to enact that section immediately.”
Consumers have until Friday, December 2 to redeem their cards11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Late last year, consumers won a victory when regulators said that RadioShack would be honoring gift card redemptions almost two years after it declared ban...
It's not that businesslike and might not be all that secure11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's not just teenagers who spend their days texting. Sending short text messages over a mobile device has become the preferred way to communicate, even at...
What pet owners can do to keep pets safe around toxic holiday plants11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
As you deck the halls this holiday season, be sure to keep the safety of your pets in mind. While certain plants help to add a festive touch to your home’s...
Most consumers say they do holiday shopping without a budget
But a holiday budget can help avoid unexpected debt11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, it's a safe bet most consumers have at least started their holiday shopping.But are they followin...
Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, it's a safe bet most consumers have at least started their holiday shopping.
But are they following a set spending budget? Personal finance experts are unanimous in their advice to do so, but evidence suggests many consumers don't.
Lending Tree's second annual holiday survey found that more than half the consumers it polled plan to shop without setting spending limits this holiday season. That, of course, usually means starting the new year with unexpected debt.
The survey also found that 43% of consumers admitting to at least some buyer's remorse after the holiday about how much money they spent.
Where the money goes
It isn't just gifts that cause people to get carried away with their credit cards. There are decorations, food, and beverages for parties, and even travel. The personal finance website Investopedia has some tips for avoiding overspending during the holiday season.
Among the decorating tips, organize a decorations swap with friends. You add new decorations without spending any money. If you have enough decorations to get by this year, wait until after Christmas and buy decorations on clearance.
If you're planning a holiday dinner party, don't feel like you have to invite everyone you know. Most people get more invitations than they can handle and won't mind attending one less holiday event.
If extended families are still exchanging gifts, suggest spending limits this year. Or even better, a secret Santa where everyone purchases just one gift.
As for travel, if you haven't already booked your flight, you're not going to save any more. However, if you're willing to fly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you might still find a bargain.
Sitting down and actually putting a budget down on paper is the best way to help you stay on track with your spending. Here's a budget worksheet that you can download.
Lending Tree found that nearly two-thirds of shoppers expect to spend $500 or less on gifts this year. That's up slightly from last year. More than 10% estimate they will spend more on gifts this year than last year.
In a new campaign, the brand is encouraging kids of all ages to write a heartfelt note to their parents11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Parenthood is a journey plagued by self-doubt, but Minute Maid wants to let parents know that they’re “Doin’ Good” (#doingood). In a new social media campa...
Trump says he may cut ties unless Cuba offers a 'better deal'11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Crewmembers at the Santa Clara Abel Santamaría International Airport in Cuba welcome JetBlue flight 387 on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the first commercial...
ConsumerGuide Automotive selects vehicles in 21 categories11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Automakers have begun their holiday sales ads, urging consumers to treat themselves to a new car. For those in the market for a new ride, ConsumerGuide Aut...
California regulators imposed a $7 million settlement for licensing violations11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
High-flying human resources and insurance start-up Zenefits has been hit with $7 million worth of penalties by California insurance regulators who accused...
A big November bounce in consumer confidence
The results bode well for the holiday shopping season11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After posting a modest decline a month earlier, consumer confidence is up strongly in November.According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confiden...
After posting a modest decline a month earlier, consumer confidence is up strongly in November.
According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 107.1, a gain of 6.3 points from October.
The Present Situation Index jumped 7.2 points to 130.3, while the Expectations Index went from 86.0 last month to 91.7.
The increase puts consumer confidence at pre-recession levels. “A more favorable assessment of current conditions coupled with a more optimistic short-term outlook helped boost confidence,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco.
“And while the majority of consumers were surveyed before the presidential election,” she points out, “it appears from the small sample of post-election responses that consumers’ optimism was not impacted by the outcome. With the holiday season upon us, a more confident consumer should be welcome news for retailers.”
How consumers see it
The assessment by consumers of current conditions improved in November. The percentage saying business conditions are “good” went from 26.5% to 29.2%, while those saying business conditions are “bad” fell from 17.3% to 14.8%.
Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was moderately more positive than last month. The percentage of consumers who think jobs are “plentiful” increased from 25.3% to 26.9%, while those who believe they’re “hard to get” was unchanged at 21.7%.
Consumers’ short-term outlook -- on balance -- was more optimistic in November. The percentage who look for business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 16.4% to 15.3%; however, those expecting them to worsen also fell -- from 11.8% to 10.0%.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was mixed as well. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead was virtually unchanged at 14.5%, but those anticipating fewer jobs fell from 16.6% to 13.8%.
When it comes to income, the percentage looking for an increase -- 17.5% -- was little changed from last month, while the proportion expecting a drop fell from 10.2% to 9.0%.
The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is conducted by Nielsen, a provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was November 15.
Improved economic performance for the third quarter
An uptick in consumer spending was a big factor11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The government's second look at how the economy was doing in the third quarter is encouraging.According to the Commerce Department, real gross domestic...
The government's second look at how the economy was doing in the third quarter is encouraging.
According to the Commerce Department, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 3.2% in the July-to-September period.
That's somewhat better than the rate of 2.9% reported in the “advance” estimate -- and a lot better than the 1.4% we saw in the second quarter of the year.
And it marks the first time the GDP growth rate has been above 3% since the third quarter of 2014.
Even with the increase, analysts say the general picture of economic growth remains the same. The advance was due to stronger consumption expenditures -- consumer spending -- than previously estimated.
The second estimate acceleration reflected an upturn in private inventory investment, an acceleration in exports, a pickup in federal government spending, and smaller decreases in state and local government spending and residential fixed investment.
An inflation measure tied to GDP -- the PCE price index -- was up 1.4%, compared with the previous 2.0% increase. When the volatile food and energy categories are removed, the gain is 1.7% versus an increase of 1.8%.
The increase in GDP gave a nice boost to corporate profits, which rose $133.8 billion in the third quarter, after falling $12.5 billion in the second.
The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.
Human Touch recalls reclining chairs
The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Human Touch of California is recalling about 1,100 Perfect Chairs, model PC-610.The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction and allow the...
Human Touch of California is recalling about 1,100 Perfect Chairs, model PC-610.
The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction and allow the chair to continue moving, posing a fall hazard to consumers.
The firm has received one report of the chair’s joystick mechanism malfunctioning. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Human Touch’s Perfect Chair, model PC-610 with serial numbers between B613315034 and B614215154. The power reclining chair was sold in a walnut, dark walnut or chestnut wood finish base with a leather pad set that came in 33 different colors.
The chair measures about 43 inches long, 31 inches wide and 47 inches high and has a head pillow at the top and a joystick controller on the left armrest. The words “Human Touch” and “Perfect Chair” and the model and serial number can be found on the cross bar connecting the rear legs of the chair.
The chairs, manufactured in Thailand, were sold at furniture and specialty stores nationwide including Healthy Back, Human Touch, Relax in Comfort, Relax The Back and The Better Back Store and online at ebay.com and vitalityweb.com for between $3,000 and $3,500.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs, and take them to the store where purchased for a full refund or contact Human Touch to receive a free repair kit (including shipping) or to arrange for free repair.
Consumers may contact Human Touch at 800-355-2762 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at email@example.com or online at www.humantouch.com.
National Steak and Poultry recalls food service ready-to-eat chicken
The products may be undercooked, resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Okla., is recalling approximately 17,439 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.The products may be undercooked,...
National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Okla., is recalling approximately 17,439 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.
The products may be undercooked, resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens.
There are no confirmed reports of adverse health effects or illnesses due to consumption of these products.
The following items, produced October 4, 2016, and packaged October 4 – 5, 2016, are being recalled:
- 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Distributed by National Steak and Poultry, Owasso, OK Fully Cooked, Diced, Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast Meat with Rib Meat” with Lot code 100416, and Case Code: 70020.
- 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Hormel Natural Choice 100% Natural No Preservatives Fully Cooked Roasted Chicken Breast Strips with Rib Meat Natural Smoke Flavor Added” with Lot code 100416, and Case code 702113.
The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-6010T” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to food service locations nationwide and should not be in consumers’ possession.
What to do
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Mike Wilson at (918) 274-8787.
Nick’s of Calvert recalls meatball product
The product contains eggs and milk11/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Nick’s of Calvert of Prince Frederick, Md., is recalling approximately 305 pounds of ready to eat meatball product.The product contains eggs and milk,...
Nick’s of Calvert of Prince Frederick, Md., is recalling approximately 305 pounds of ready to eat meatball product.
The product contains eggs and milk, allergens not declared on the label.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.
The following product is being recalled:
- 5-lb. clear plastic packages containing “NICK’S Fully Cooked Italian Style Meatballs.”
The product subject to recall does not bear a USDA mark of inspection. Other typical identification markings, including best before or use by dates or processing or repackaging dates are also absent from the product labels.
The product was sold in retail locations in Maryland.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Nick Ferrante III at (410) 414-7105.
American Express has already announced it will take advantage of higher federal limits11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
If you're in the habit of being late with credit card payments, now's the time to resolve to do better in 2017. Starting in January, federal rules allow cr...
Consumers without a supplemental policy at greatest risk11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The older you get, the more your risk of getting cancer goes up. But it you are counting on Medicare alone to pay for your treatment, a new study suggests...
A Visit to the White House - follow in the footsteps of our presidents
The occupants change but the White House endures11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
The most famous address in Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The White House, the iconic symbol of the presidency and part of th...
The most famous address in Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The White House, the iconic symbol of the presidency and part of the National Park Service, is available for public tours, and it’s like taking a walk through our nation’s history. There’s something so special in passing through the very same portico where our president greets dignitaries and heads of state from all over the world.
The rooms that are available for public view are all located on the main floor. No peeking into the Oval Office. Some of the rooms you’ll walk through with the center roped off; others you glimpse through an open door. You’ll pass through corridors, halls, and the East Garden Room and along the way you’ll have a chance to view portraits, sculptures, and a cabinet that displays many of the presidents’ china patterns, including the new set from President Obama.
There are framed photos that showcase happy family moments during different presidencies, as well as noteworthy events, such as President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. behind him and Jimmy Carter with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signing the Camp David Accords.
What else will you see? Many portraits of our presidents and first ladies, including the famed Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that Dolley Madison saved when the British burned the White House in 1814 and the pensive portrait of Abraham Lincoln that was bequeathed to the White House in 1939 by the widow of Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s oldest son.
Book lovers will wish they could curl up in the Library, which contains 2,700 works by American authors. The Vermeil Room, named for the large collection of vermeil (1,575 pieces of gilded silver) given to the White House by Margaret Thompson Biddle and used as a sitting room. The stunning Red Room, with its furniture upholstered in “Crimson Plush,” is a favorite spot for first ladies to entertain guests. You can also see the State Dining Room, just given a fresh update by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and the China Room which, no surprise, displays china and glass used by the presidents.
White House tours are free.
Tours are self-guided and available Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays).
Tours can be canceled at the last minute.You will be provided with a phone number with your confirmation, and it’s wise to call close to the tour time to ensure it’s still on.
How to book a tour:
U.S. citizens should submit requests through the office of your member of Congress.
Citizens of a foreign country should contact your embassy in Washington, D.C. for assistance in submitting a tour request.
Tour requests should be submitted up to three months in advance, but no less than 21 days in advance. There are a limited number of spaces available for each tour, so submit your request early.
For information on White House tours and events go to: https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/tours-and-events or call (202) 456-7041.
To get the most out of your White House visit check out the White House Visitor Center for additional exhibits, artifacts, and ranger-led talks. It’s located a block and half from the White House at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, open daily from 7:30 am to 4 p.m.
How mouse allergens found in schools may worsen children's asthma symptoms
Researchers say that schools should focus on reduction strategies to improve health outcomes11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
If you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was perfor...
If you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was performing physical activities in gym class or participating in athletic sports, the condition was likely one that slowed you down if it wasn’t managed constantly.
However, a recent study suggests that certain allergens found in schools may make asthma symptoms even worse. Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found that air-borne allergens in schools, such as those that come from mice, may worsen asthma symptoms. They say that inner city children who are exposed to mouse allergens at school have worse overall medical outcomes connected with their asthma.
“In our study of inner-city school-aged children with asthma, exposure to higher levels of school mouse allergen was associated with a higher number of days with asthma symptoms and decreased lung function, independent of home environmental exposure,” the researchers said.
The researchers analyzed the home and school environments of 284 students between the ages of 4 and 13 that were enrolled in inner-city schools in the northeastern United States. They found that schools with higher concentrations of mouse allergen yielded children with worse asthma symptoms and lower lung function.
While other allergens were found both at home and at school, the researchers say that negative health trends were most noticeable in children exposed to mouse allergens at school. They recommend that schools find ways to reduce the amount of these contaminants so that asthmatic children do not suffer as much from their condition.
“This [negative health trend] was seen in all children with asthma studied, regardless of whether they were sensitized to mouse allergen, and further underscores the public health relevance of school-associated allergen exposure as an important contributor to asthma morbidity in children,” they said.
“These findings suggest that exposure reduction strategies in the school setting may effectively and efficiently benefit all children with asthma. Future school-based environmental intervention studies may be warranted.”
How pediatricians can help when parents divorce
A new report addresses the pediatricians’ role in helping kids cope with the separation11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The finalization of a divorce or separation often marks the beginning of a stressful and confusing time for affected children. The emotional impact of divo...
The finalization of a divorce or separation often marks the beginning of a stressful and confusing time for affected children. The emotional impact of divorce is often felt to an even higher degree during the holiday season.
"The pediatrician can help parents understand their children's reactions to divorce or separation," which can vary depending on the child’s age, said report co-lead author Dr. Carol Weitzman, chairwoman of the AAP's Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Pediatricians remain neutral
If the emotional repercussions of a divorce begin to affect a child’s school performance or friendships, the pediatrician can recommend developmentally appropriate ways for parents to talk with their children about the divorce.
If children seem to be in need of further support, pediatricians can refer families to child-oriented professionals who have experience in helping children affected by divorce.
Adjusting to change
“The children’s routines of school, extracurricular activities, contact with family and friends, discipline, and responsibilities ideally should remain as normal and unchanged as possible,” the authors said, adding that parents should also help kids understand that they did not cause the divorce.
If one parent cannot provide adequate support and reassurance, pediatricians can serve as a source of guidance for the other parent.
Xerox Education Services allegedly harassed borrowers and mishandled federal loan relief efforts11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Many people connect the company Xerox with office supplies, printers, and other products of that nature. However, the company does provide other services;...
Researchers say the device could one day be used for disease diagnosis11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
What does your sweat say about your health? Wearing a new skin patch during exercise may help you find out. Scientists say they have developed a quarter-si...
Beware of promises of 'easy money' loans
They're really just repackaged payday loans11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
To hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit....
To hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit. But that's hardly the case. In fact, lending standards in recent years have gotten tighter, not looser.
So what's with all the pitches for “easy money” loans? The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities says most of these pitches are coming from payday lenders operating in other states.
They might be called payday loans, or car title loans, or sometimes just “quick money loans.” Whatever they're called, Pennsylvania banking officials say they carry the same issues as your garden variety payday loans – the term is for just two weeks, meaning you almost certainly have to take out another loan to pay back the first. And when the fees are added up, it can amount to an annual interest rate of between 300% to 1,000%.
"The Internet contains a lot of 'guarantees' of easy, fast ways to get cash that too often lead to long-term financial problems," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann. "Too many people who take out 'easy money' loans end up paying shockingly high amounts of interest on these loans, losing their cars or motorcycles, or being hounded illegally by debt collectors."
Robocallers go to work
And now, the purveyors of these loans are using spam robocalls to push their products. Honolulu TV station KHON reports many consumers have received their calls, which originate outside the U.S., and thus outside the control of U.S. authorities. The recorded pitch says the consumer receiving the call has already been approved for a loan, even though they haven't applied for one.
“The robocall tells you that no credit check will be required when you go to the website to look it up it says no credit check is required then when you look at the fine print it says oh, a third-party will do a credit check on you,” Gregory Dunn, CEO of the Hawaii Better Business Bureau told the station.
Robocalls, which are illegal in nearly all instances, are increasingly used to market dubious products and services. It gives the telemarketer a lot more power.
Screening the first set of victims
“A robocall, as a technology, is used to screen out the first set of victims,” Jan Volzke, a vice president at Hiya, told ConsumerAffairs back in July.
Hiya is a free call-blocking app, available for the iPhone and Android platforms. It was recently spun off as an independent company by Whitepages.
As has been pointed out repeatedly by consumer advocates, consumers in need of quick money should not fall for a scam or resort to a payday loan. Wiessmann suggests looking into other alternatives, which include asking if your bank offers short-term loans. Also, check into short-term loans offered by credit unions.
If you need cash to pay an overdue bill, Wiessmann suggests asking your boss for an advance or negotiating with the creditor for more time. If all else fails, Wiessman says you'll be better off paying the late fees on the bill, which in the long run will be a lot less than the fees associated with one of those “easy money” loans.
Wells Fargo seeking to use arbitration clause to block lawsuits
The bank claims customers gave up their right to sue when they opened accounts11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Wells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitrat...
Wells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitration.
Bloomberg News reports the bank has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to keep one particular lawsuit from getting to court. In the motion, Wells Fargo says customers agreed to resolve disputes out of court when they opened their accounts.
The lawsuits are the result of Wells Fargo's actions, opening millions of bank and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge or permission. At the time, the bank was engaged in a sales strategy known as “cross-marketing,” where customers with one type of account were encouraged to open another type, increasing the amount of fees flowing to the bank.
Went beyond convincing
The bank offered incentives to employees who were able to convince customers with bank accounts to open credit card accounts, and vice-versa. Federal regulators charged Wells Fargo went beyond trying to convince customers to open new accounts and simply opened the accounts for them without their knowledge. The bank fired 5,300 employees and paid $185 million in fines. It's CEO, John Stumpf, after being raked over the coals by Congressional committees, took early retirement.
Bloomberg reports the motion, filed in the lawsuit brought by 80 Wells Fargo customers, points out that the arbitration clause has already been validated in another lawsuit brought in California.
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution favored by large corporations with lots of customers. It keeps disputes out of court and, while saving in legal fees, often results in more favorable rulings. Besides banks, telecommunications companies usually require their customers to agree to arbitration.
Considering a ban
A year ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it was considering proposed rules that would ban consumer financial companies from using “free pass” arbitration clauses.
With this free pass, CFPB said companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid big refunds, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers.
“Consumers should not be asked to sign away their legal rights when they open a bank account or credit card,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at the time.
Cordray said corporations are using the arbitration clause as a free pass to sidestep the courts and his agency would consider banning arbitration clauses that block group lawsuits.
Online sales power Black Friday
Overall sales surged, while in-store sales declined11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black F...
Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black Friday shopping weekend, with more purchases moving to online channels.
One of the first sales reports comes from Adobe, which tracked $5.2 billion in spending over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a 17.7% increase over last year. At the same time time, brick-and-mortar sales were down from last year.
Black Friday sales alone smashed the old record, logging $3.34 billion, beating last year's mark by 21.6%. Adobe reports Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouses made up the five biggest sellers in the toy department on Black Friday. Apple iPads, Samsung 4k TVs, Apple MacBooks Air, LG TVs, and Microsoft Xboxes were the top sellers in the electronics department.
More mobile purchases
Adobe reported mobile platforms drove the majority of visits to retail websites on Black Friday and accounted for 35% of sales. It found large retailers experienced twice the growth in online sales as small retailers since the start of the holiday shopping season.
Rakuten Marketing reported similar findings. It said its data shows mobile sites got 56% of the traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Black Friday's online spending beat last year by 41%.
“Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director, Adobe Digital Insights. “With the full day total coming in at $3.34 billion, Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday's position as the largest online shopping day of the year.”
How big will Cyber Monday be?
Of course, that remains to be seen. Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com reported that many ecommerce sites started their Cyber Monday specials on Sunday evening, suggesting the sales total could surpass projections. It notes that Apple, Dell, Best Buy, and Target are offering free shipping with no minimum order size, which could spur sales.
Among the hottest Cyber Monday promotions, it has identified Target's 15% off nearly everything in-store and online during the day, as worthy of consumers' attention. It also calls attention to Walmart's over 50% discount on Samsung HDTVs.
Assuming Cyber Monday smashes estimates, the nation's retailers could be on pace for a record holiday sales period.
New study finds evidence that dogs use episodic memory11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Your dog likely remembers where the treats are kept and how to perform the tricks typically required to earn them, but Fido’s recall ability may be more ro...
Hale and Hearty Soups recalls ready-to-eat chicken chili soup
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with List...
Hale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The following item, produced and packaged on November 9, 2016, is being recalled:
- 6.9-lb. bags containing “CHICKEN CHILI SOUP” with an “Expires:12/09” date.
The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-34800” inside the USDA mark of inspection, as shipped to food service distributors in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions regarding this recall may contact Paul Schwartz at (212) 255-2400 Ext. 2025.
General Motors recalls model year 2016 Buick Cascadas
The vehicles may have an incorrect convertible roof control module11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
General Motors is recalling four model year 2016 Buick Cascadas manufactured December 2, 2015, to February 24, 2016.The vehicles may have had the origi...
General Motors is recalling four model year 2016 Buick Cascadas manufactured December 2, 2015, to February 24, 2016.
The vehicles may have had the original convertible roof control module (CRCM) replaced with an incorrect CRCM, that allows the windows to close automatically when the roof is closed and can allow the windows to be closed remotely using the key fob. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 118, "Power-Operated Window Systems."
If the windows close automatically or can be closed remotely, the unexpected closure can increase the risk of injury to the passengers.
What to do
GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the CRCM with correct module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 9, 2016.
Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300. GM's number for this recall is 16126.
Greencore, USA recalls Mediterranean Chicken Hummus” sandwiches made for 7-Eleven
The recall is tied to the Sabra Dipping Company recall11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Greencore, USA is recalling Fresh to Go Mediterranean Chicken Hummus sandwiches (UPC 5254858888) manufactured solely for 7-Eleven.Sabra Dipping Company...
Greencore, USA is recalling Fresh to Go Mediterranean Chicken Hummus sandwiches (UPC 5254858888) manufactured solely for 7-Eleven.
Sabra Dipping Company has recalled the red pepper hummus ingredient used in this sandwich because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
There are no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.
Because of the two day shelf life of the product, Greencore is recalling only lots distributed since October 15, 2016. the recalled product was distributed to 7-Eleven stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.
Sandwiches with following Use By Dates, listed on the back panel of the sandwich, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but dispose of it.
Consumers with questions may call Greencore at (978) 716-2530 between 9 am and 5 pm (EST).
Deli sandwiches recalled in Northern California and Nevada
The recall is tied to the Sabra Dipping Company hummus recall11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling for the Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches produced for 7-Eleven stores.The hummus sp...
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling for the Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches produced for 7-Eleven stores.
The hummus spread used in the sandwiches was recalled by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
There are no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.
Approximately 241 sandwiches containing the Sabra Dipping Company hummus were produced and distributed from the LSG Sky Chefs facilities in San Jose, Calif. Approximately 72 sandwiches were produced from the firm's Las Vegas, Nevada, location.
What to do
Consumers who purchased the recalled product with a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016 through November 21, 2016, at 7-Eleven between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016 should dispose of it or return it to 7-Eleven for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may call 214-368-0909 between 6:00am and 3:00pm (PST).
Model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs recalled
The fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Nissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.The vehicles may not have h...
Nissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.
The vehicles may not have had the temporary fuel tank breather tube cap removed during the vehicle's assembly and the fuel tank breather tube may not have been connected to the bed rail. As a result, the fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation, possibly causing the fuel gauge and the distance to empty meter to both display inaccurately.
If the fuel gauge reads incorrectly, the vehicle can run out of fuel without the driver being aware, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel tank breather tube, replacing the fuel tank, fuel sending unit, and/or fuel tank breather tube, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.
7-Eleven deli sandwiches recalled in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo
The recall is prompted by the Sabra Dipping Company recall11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling the 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches the company produces for 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Pa...
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling the 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches the company produces for 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Pa., Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, N Y., markets.
The hummus spread used in the sandwiches is subject to a national recall issued by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
The company has received no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.
Approximately 389 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches, packaged in a plastic clam shell, net wt. 8-oz., UPC 0 52548 58888 5, and a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016, through November 21, 2016, located on the back of the package, were produced and distributed to 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo areas.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016, should dispose of it or return it to a 7-Eleven store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may call 214-368-0909 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (EST).
Chrysler recalls model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers
The fuel tank may have a cracked or broken control valve11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.The vehicles may have a fuel t...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.
The vehicles may have a fuel tank that has a cracked or broken control valve, possibly resulting in a fuel leak in a rollover event, debris in the fuel tank and/or the potential of over fueling the vehicle.
A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and Jeep dealers will inspect the fuel tank and replace fuel tank and sending unit, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 2, 2017.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S90.
Mediterranean Style Chicken With Hummus sandwiches recalled
The recall is prompted by the Sabra Dipping Company recall11/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling recall 103 units of Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches.The hummus spread used in the...
LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling recall 103 units of Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches.
The hummus spread used in the sandwiches was recalled by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
The recalled products, packaged in the plastic clam shell, net wt. 8-oz., UPC 0 52548 58888 5 with a a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016 through November 21, 2016, located on the back of the package, were produced and distributed to 7-Eleven stores in Washington state.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product at 7-Eleven stores between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016, should dispose of them or return them to a 7-Eleven store for a full refund.
After Exxon revealed that it would have to write off some oil reserves, investors are suing11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Documents unveiled by the InsideClimateNews site last year revealed that ExxonMobil executives and scientists were aware of the risks that oil and gas dril...
The small but powerful magnets can be swallowed by infants, causing serious injury11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A U.S. Appeals Court decision has overturned a ban on high-powered magnet sets sold under names including Buckyballs, Zen Magnets, Neoballs, and Neocube. C...
Immigrants are fearful and anxious, making them vulnerable to fraud11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The presidential campaign has brought fear and anxiety to immigrant communities, leaving them vulnerable to scam artists claiming to offer assistance servi...
Only eight percent of 98 sets of footwear tested met minimum slip resistance standards11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Ice is no joke in Canada. Hoping to provide Canadian consumers with a little more traction, researchers at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute have developed...
Consumers appear to give Black Friday a strong start
Stores are crowded and online sales surge11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, th...
It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, they took advantage of the stores that opened on Thanksgiving. Millions more shopped online.
Macy's said there were more than 16,000 shoppers lined up outside its New York flagship store in Harold Square as the doors opened Thanksgiving night. It reports that early sales receipts suggest a lot of people will be finding sweaters and other clothing under the tree this year.
Target also reports a strong start to the big shopping weekend. Not only were stores jammed with shoppers last night, the company says Target.com had it's biggest single sales day ever.
“Shopping at Target has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for millions of our guests, and we’re thrilled at the response we’ve seen this year,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell. “Based on early results, it’s clear that our deals are cutting through. We expect this momentum to continue throughout the weekend and into next week.”
Target says TV sets were among the most popular items, with consumers buying more than 3,200 sets every minute during the first hour that stores were open. Early indications also point to strong sales of Apple products, including the Apple Watch Series 1.
Hoverboards sold out in minutes
Among toys, Target says LEGO, NERF, and Our Generation were popular items. The Jetson V6 Hoverboard sold out within minutes, the company said.
Amazon, meanwhile, has already jumped ahead to Cyber Monday. The company has unveiled 75,000 deals it plans to offer next week.
The deals include the Amazon Echo for $139.99, a 50 inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $249.99, and 30% off on select clothing, shoes, jewelry, and watches for women, men, kids, and infants.
Last Cyber Monday, Amazon says customers ordered more than 54 million items worldwide, which set a record. It says based on early sales data, it expects that record to be shattered next week.
Did the large number of retailers who took a stand against opening on Thanksgiving miss the boat? Maybe not. CNBC reports the Mall of America, which this year remained closed on the holidays, had even bigger crowds lining up for its Black Friday opening than it did last year.
Here are four schemes that they'll be paying close attention to11/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Black Friday has finally arrived. Shoppers across the country are walking the aisles or scouring the net for the best deals that they can find, but tension...
An appeals court has sided with biotech companies11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
A Kauai beachKauai, known as Hawaii’s oldest and most pristine island, has for nearly fifty years been an unlikely host to one of the world’s biggest...
It's a response to a big spike in traffic deaths, blamed partly on driver distraction11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Your smartphone has an airplane mode, and if federal regulators have their way, it may soon have a driving mode. "As millions of Americans take to the...
Expert suggests thinking about where you shop and how you pay11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers are buying more of everything online, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they are doing more holiday shopping with their mobile devices and PCs....
Researchers develop a potential therapy for concussions
An FDA-approved drug holds promise for reducing swelling and mitigating harmful effects11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Concussions are one of the more common, but nevertheless most serious, injuries that consumers can face. This kind of mild traumatic brain injury can occur...
Concussions are one of the more common, but nevertheless most serious, injuries that consumers can face. This kind of mild traumatic brain injury can occur from a car accident, while playing a contact sport, or during any number of life’s accidental missteps.
But what really happens during a concussion that makes it so dangerous, and is there any way to avoid the negative effects of the injury? Researchers at the University of Arkansas think so. They explain that when a concussion occurs, a certain protein called aquaporin-4 is released during the swelling process.
"Our study found that mild traumatic brain injury resulted in increased expression of a protein called aquaporin-4, which caused a massive cellular influx of fluid, leading to increased astrocyte cell volume and injury," explains Kartik Balachandran, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
However, they believe that using an FDA-approved drug called Acetazolamide may help reduce swelling and the influx of aquaporin-4. “Our results showed that Acetazolamide minimized cell swelling and injury, suggesting a therapeutic role for this drug in reducing the detrimental effects of concussions," they said.
Reducing harmful effects
Acetazolamide is most commonly used to treat epilepsy and altitude sickness, but the researchers found that it also does a good job of reducing the expression of aquaporin-4. They came to this discovery after examining astrocyte cells in the brain.
Using a benchtop bioreactor that they engineered, the researchers observed how a mild traumatic brain injury like a concussion caused a large cellular influx of fluid. In turn, the fluid increased astrocyte cell volume, leading to more swelling. But when the researchers applied Acetazolamide, they found that swelling was not as prominent.
"This study demonstrates the collaborative neuro-engineering efforts that are contributing to both diagnostic and therapeutic methods for addressing traumatic brain injury," said Raj Rao, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arkansas.
Kids with an emotionally involved father are less likely to develop behavioral problems later, study finds11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
It’s no secret that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives, but a new study finds that a father’s attitude is everything when it comes to...
An aspartame breakdown product interfere with a vital enzyme11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Studies have found that the sugar substitute aspartame -- sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal -- isn't as helpful in losing weight as one might...
Tests on promising Alzheimer's drug end in disappointment
Ely Lilly will not seek FDA approval for solanezumab11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.T...
There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.
The flip side of that, of course, is when these hopeful promises just don't pan out. So it was with great disappointment that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced that its promising new drug solanezumab “did not meet the primary endpoint” in it's final, phase 3 testing. The company said it would not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug.
Lilly said patients in the trial who were treated with solanezumab did not experience a statistically significant slowing in cognitive decline compared to patients treated with placebo. It dashed the hope raised by previous research.
Solanezumab is a mono-clonal antibody targeting excess amyloid in the brain. It was designed for patients considered to be at risk of Alzheimer's but who had not displayed symptoms of the disease.
Slowing memory loss by 10 years
Researchers were hopeful that doctors might eventually use positron emission tomography (PET scans) to locate beta amyloid as it begins to form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease 10 to 20 years before they show any symptoms of the disease.
The drug would then be administered, removing the harmful protein from the brain before it could begin to build up. Researchers were hopeful it might slow memory loss by at least 10 years.
"The results of the solanezumab EXPEDITION3 trial were not what we had hoped for and we are disappointed for the millions of people waiting for a potential disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly, in a written statement. "We will evaluate the impact of these results on the development plans for solanezumab and our other Alzheimer's pipeline assets."
Lechleiter also issued a statement to the Alzheimer's community in the video below, vowing his company would continue pursuing effective treatments.
Lilly said it would present further findings from the study at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease meeting in early December.
A 1.4 megawatt microgrid will cover nearly 100% of power needs11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Solar panels on Ta'u -- Photo via YouTubeLast week, we reported that shareholders had greenlighted a merger between Tesla and SolarCity, a move that...
Thanksgiving motorists to find falling gas prices
But prices are still slightly higher than last year11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap pric...
According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap prices at the pump, and the prices could be even cheaper on the return trip.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price at $2.13 a gallon, nearly a dime cheaper than a month ago, but six cents more than last Thanksgiving weekend. The price of diesel fuel is actually down from last year.
Gas prices are higher than last year because oil prices rose in September and October on the expectation that OPEC would agree to curtail production when it meets next week. That expectation has grown weaker in recent weeks, so the price of oil has slipped lower on huge supplies and declining demand.
Oklahoma has the cheapest gasoline prices in the nation. The statewide average there is $1.88 a gallon. It's $1.89 in Missouri and $1.91 in Kansas and Texas.
The most expensive gasoline is found in Hawaii, at $2.85 a gallon, followed by California at $2.68, and Washington and Alaska at $2.61.
Trend moving in the right direction
For motorists, the trend is moving in the right direction. The average price of fuel has fallen steadily since November 6 and drivers in 45 states and the District of Columbia are now paying less than they were last week.
The price should continue to fall throughout the holidays, with AAA predicting a national average price of $2 by the end of the year. Even now, the average price is below the $2 threshold in 12 states.
For Thanksgiving travelers, the Central Plains states will be the most economical region to drive. The Western states remain the most expensive. The Southeastern states have seen prices rise slightly in recent weeks but remain a bargain, with five states – Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee – among the ten lowest-priced states in the U.S.
British scientists studied weather patterns dating back 450 years11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Is New York becoming the new Florida? A British study warns that because of shifting weather patterns, the Northeast could be struck by more frequent and m...
Why this Black Friday will be different from all others
There are a lot more deals and more time to buy them11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.At a Walmart store...
The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.
At a Walmart store on Long Island, a huge, restive crowd had gathered outside in the chilly, early morning hours waiting for the doors to open. As an employee began to unlock the doors, the New York Daily News reported that the crowd wouldn't wait any longer, took the doors off their hinges, and trampled the 34-year old man to death while injuring four shoppers, including a pregnant woman.
The incident caused a lot of people to step back and reassess the absurd craziness that characterized the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. While there will undoubtedly be isolated, and widely reported, cases of consumer incivility toward one another in pursuit of a bargain on Friday, hopefully there will be no fatalities.
Money and bargains were scarce
After all, there is no need for that. In 2008, not only was money scarce, so were the bargains. Retailers promoted doorbuster deals to draw a crowd but only had a limited number of items at that price. So if you showed up at 4:00 a.m. to get the latest video game console for $99, the people who got in line at 3:00 a.m. got the five units that were available at that price.
In recent years, retailers stocked a lot more of their Black Friday bargains and they began spreading out the times at which they were available. Stores started opening on Thanksgiving, though this year a large number have reversed that policy.
Stores have also made more of their Black Friday deals available online. Instead of spending time driving to the mall and going from store to store, shoppers can look for deals online from the comfort of their homes.
The deals have already started
It's no longer necessary to wait until Black Friday to find bargains, either online or in stores. In fact, Amazon is currently offering numerous sale prices during its Black Friday Deals Week. Walmart has also gotten started with its Pre-Black Friday Deals promotion.
Consumers also have a lot more information about deals than ever before. Retailers have leaked their Black Friday newspaper ads well in advance, which have been collected online at sites like BestBlackFriday.com, making it easier for consumers to find what they want, and at the price they are willing to pay, well ahead of time.
After Black Friday, consumers know they will still be able to find plenty of deals. There's Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both with non-stop deals.
So in a way, Black Friday is becoming just another busy holiday shopping day. Consumers jamming the aisles are not quite as desperate to latch onto that doorbuster bargain because they know they can probably find it somewhere else.
And that's probably a good thing. Safer, at least.
An October dip in new home sales
Sales prices were mixed while inventories rose11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Single-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to...
Single-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.
The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 563,000. Even with that decline, sales were 17.8% ahead of the October 2015 pace of 478,000.
Robert Denk, a senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders told ConsumerAffairs that despite the volatility this is a good report, which continues a “solidly upward trend” in new home sales.
Inventory and pricing
More homes were available for sale at the end of the month. The seasonally adjusted estimate came in at 246,000, representing a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate. In September, there were 235,000 homes available, which translates to a supply of 4.8 months.
The median sales price of new houses sold in October was $304,500 up $5,800. The median is the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less. The average sales price was down $12,000 to $354,900.
The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.
House prices modest gain in third quarter
Jobless claims were on the rise last week11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.The Federal Housing Finance Age...
The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI) was up 1.5% in the July-August quarter and 6.1% percent from the third quarter of 2015 following an advance of 1.2% in the second quarter.
On a month-over-month basis, the HPI rose 0.6% in September from August.
“Our data indicate that the deceleration in home price growth that we observed in late spring proved to be short-lived,” said FHFA Supervisory Economist Andrew Leventis. “While price growth in select markets has cooled somewhat for the U.S. as a whole, the third quarter showed no evidence of a widespread slowdown.”
While the HPI rose 6.1% during last year's third quarter, prices of other goods and services were nearly unchanged. The inflation-adjusted price of homes rose approximately 6.0% over the last year.
The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- Home prices rose in 49 states between the third quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016; Delaware and the District of Columbia were the only areas not to see price increases. The top five states in annual appreciation were: 1) Florida 10.7%; 2) Oregon 10.4%; 3) Washington 10.4%; 4) Colorado 10.0%; and 5) Utah 9.5%.
- Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in Tacoma-Lakewood, Wash. (MSAD), where prices increased by 12.9%. Prices were weakest in New Haven-Milford, Conn., where they fell 1.7%.
- Of the nine census divisions, the South Atlantic division experienced the strongest increase in the third quarter, posting a 1.8% quarterly increase and a 7.1% increase since the third quarter of last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England division, where prices rose 0.8% from the previous quarter.
The full report may be found on the FHFA website.
First-time applications for state unemployment benefits blipped higher in the week preceding Thanksgiving.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims rose 18,000 in the week ending November 19 to a seasonally adjusted 251,000.
Even with that increase, initial claims have been below 300,000 for 90 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1970.
The four-week moving average, which many economists believe is a more accurate gauge of the economy because of its lack of volatility, came in at 251,000 -- down 2,000 from the previous week.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
Mortgage applications rebound
Contract interest rates rose to their highest levels in nearly a year11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mortgage applications surged last week following a sharp decline the week before.According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), applications rose...
Mortgage applications surged last week following a sharp decline the week before.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), applications rose 5.5% in the week ending November 18, driven largely by purchase applications, which were up 13%.
“The increase in purchase activity was driven by borrowers seeking larger loans and that drove up the average loan amount on home purchase applications to $310 thousand, the highest in the survey, which dates back to 1990,” said Michael Fratantoni, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research & Technology at the MBA.
The Refinance Index fell 3% to its lowest level since January, with the refinance share of mortgage activity dropping to 58.2% of total applications from 61.9% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 5.2% of total applications, the FHA share dipped to 11.7% from 12.2% a week earlier, the VA share was 12.5%, and the USDA share of total applications increased to 0.8% from 0.6% the week before.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) shot up 21 basis points -- from 3.95% to 4.16% -- its highest level since January, with points unchanged at 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) surged to its highest level since January -- 4.04%, from 3.89% -- with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA rose 17 basis points to 3.90%, its highest level since January, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs moved to its highest level since January -- 3.35%, from 3.15% -- with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs rose 13 basis points to 3.24%, its highest level since last December, with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.42 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Omni Custom Meats recalls roasted chicken quarters
The product contains soy, an allergen not declared on the label11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Omni Custom Meats of Bowling Green, Ky., is recalling approximately 191,695 pounds of marinated roasted chicken quarters.The product contains soy, an a...
Omni Custom Meats of Bowling Green, Ky., is recalling approximately 191,695 pounds of marinated roasted chicken quarters.
The product contains soy, an allergen not declared on the label.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following item, produced from January 12 through November 15, 2016, is being recalled:
- 5,477 cases of 35-lb. heat sealed bags containing 52 pieces of “Roasted Chicken Quarters – Sea Salt, Cane Juice, Chicken Broth Powder, Canola Powder, Spices.”
The recalled product, bearing establishment number P-2199 inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to distributors in Georgia and Missouri.
What to do
Consumers with questions may contact Curt Sullivan, plant owner at (270) 796-666.
Taylor Farms recalls vegetable products containing Sabra products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The recall by Sabra Dipping of select hummus products has prompted Taylor Farms to recall products containing Sabra's recalled products.There are conce...
The recall by Sabra Dipping of select hummus products has prompted Taylor Farms to recall products containing Sabra's recalled products.
There are concerns the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The firm has not received any reports of illnesses associated with these recalled items.
The recalled products are labeled “Taylor Farms Veggie and Hummus Bistro Boxes” and “Schnucks Vegetable and Hummus Snack Trays” containing Sabra Hummus Classic 2-oz. dipping cups.
The following products are being recalled:
Individual Sabra items and lot codes/”Best Before” dates, located on the lid or bottom of the dipping cups, may be found in the original Sabra recall.
The recalled products were distributed in Arkansas, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but dispose of them immediately.
Consumers may call (855) 455-0098 between 9 am and 5 pm (PST) Monday through Friday for further information.
BRP recalls side-by-side off-road vehicles
The vehicle can lose steering control, posing a crash hazard11/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
BRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 2,380 side-by-side off-road vehicles.The steering rack and pinion assembly can have an improper amount...
BRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 2,380 side-by-side off-road vehicles.
The steering rack and pinion assembly can have an improper amount of grease and result in a loss of steering control, posing a crash hazard.
The firm has received 33 incident reports, including reports of intermittent or complete steering lock. No injuries are reported.
This recall involves model year 2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 side-by-side vehicles. The vehicles came in various colors. The model name and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is printed on a label under the glove box.
To determine if your vehicle is included in the recall, have your VIN (Vehicle identification Number) ready and contact your authorized Can-Am side-by-side dealer or BRP.
Recalled models include:
The vehicles, manufactured in Mexico, were sold at Can-Am dealers nationwide from August 2016, through November 2016, for between $23,000 and $27,000.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP Can-Am side-by-side dealer to schedule an appointment for a free repair. BRP is notifying registered consumers directly about this recall.
Consumers may contact BRP toll-free at 888-272-9222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday or online at www.can-am.brp.com and click on “Owner Center” and then “Recall Information” for more information.
The chain's 'Chorizo Burrito' has far more calories than listed in stores, claimants say11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
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Stressful situations can cause digestive problems -- here’s how to keep pets calm11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
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John Vartanian will pay $1.2 million in reparations and spend two years in prison11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
When debt becomes overwhelming and consumers have nowhere else to turn, many look to debt relief companies to ease the burden. Unfortunately, not all compa...
Holiday food deals to take advantage of this season
Prices on many items will hit rock bottom during November and December11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Black Friday isn’t the only day consumers can snag a bargain. During the months of November and December, grocery stores lower the prices on items that are...
Black Friday isn’t the only day consumers can snag a bargain. During the months of November and December, grocery stores lower the prices on items that are frequently used in holiday recipes.
Ingredients such as flour, chocolate chips, and condensed milk don’t have to be used in holiday cooking, of course; they can be used all year. So why not seize the opportunity to stock your pantry while holiday staples are available at a fraction of their regular price?
Items to stockpile
- Flour ($1.25 per 5lb bag or .25 per lb)
- Sugar ($1.50 per 4lb bag or less)
- Baking Powder (.99 or less)
- Chocolate Chips ($1.50 or less per 12 oz.)
- Evaporated Milk (.60 or less)
- Condensed Milk ($1.00 or less)
- Baking Mixes ($1.00 or less)
- Marshmallows ($1.00 or less)
- Powdered Sugar (.99 or less)
- Brown Sugar (.99 or less)
- Nuts ($6.00 per lb or less)
- Cocoa Powder ($2.00 per 8 oz or less)
- Holiday Candy (varies)
- Canned Vegetables (.50 or less)
- Condensed Soups (.50 or less)
- Canned Pumpkin ($1.00 or less)
- Butter ($2.00 per lb or less)
- Ham ($1.00 per lb or less)
- Turkey ($1.00 per lb or less)
- Sweet Potatoes (.33 per lb or less)
- Baking Potatoes (.15 per lb or less)
- Onions (.69 per lb or less)
- Carrots ($1.00 per lb or less)
- Stuffing Mix (.75 or less)
The test flight of Aquila was hailed as a success despite 'substantial' damage11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Facebook and the Wright Brothers have a lot in common: their initial flights didn't end too well."A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of...
High costs, they say, keep some people who need them from buying them11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
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But point-of-sale incentives usually not that attractive11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Each November, just before Black Friday, there's a big spike in new credit card accounts. Equifax, one of the three credit reporting agencies, says it's ha...
The tiny pests can lurk in hotel rooms and even grandma's guest room11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
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What you should and shouldn't buy on Black Friday
Not everything is cheaper on the big day11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been...
The big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.
But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been rolling out Black Friday bargains since Halloween. Still, millions of consumers will crowd stores and go online over the long holiday weekend because there will, in fact, be some pretty spectacular deals.
But be warned. Not everything you can buy on Black Friday is going to be the best price. Personal finance site WalletHub has studied retail prices and found that 78% of items will have a lower price on Black Friday. But 17.3% will actually be more expensive on that day.
If you know what categories are likely to have the most deals you will be less likely to make a costly error. According to WalletHub, you'll do best shopping for video games, appliances, furniture, and computers on Black Friday. You are less likely to save if you buy jewelry, clothing, and consumer electronics.
Retailers with the best deals
When it comes to retailers, Ace Hardware, Big Lots, BJ's, Harbor Freight, and True Value have the largest percentage of low prices, when compared to the same item priced on Amazon prior to Black Friday.
William Joyce, a marketing professor at the Stern School of Business, told WalletHub that consumers should be sure to read the fine print on Black Friday deals, to make sure they understand what they're buying.
Among the best Black Friday deals it's seen so far, WalletHub suggests these may be worth checking out:
- Samsung refrigerator, 24.5 cubic feet, $899, marked down from $1,347, at AAFES
- Denon Soundbar with wireless subwoofer; $350, marked down from $557, at Best Buy
- 15 foot arena trampoline, with basketball hoop, football game, basketball, and football; $250, marked down from $500, at BJ's
- Kirkland Signature 42-inch mobile 16 drawer tool chest; $499, marked down from $900, at Costco.
A survey by Deloitte shows 79% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, but an increasing number plan to do their shopping online. In fact, shoppers this year said they plan to spend 51% of the holiday budget online.
Consumers estimate they will spend $400 during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up from $369 last year.
Existing-home sales rise to highest level in nearly a decade
Prices were higher as well11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sales of previously-owned homes rose in October for the second month in a row and are now at their highest level since February 2007.The National Assoc...
Sales of previously-owned homes rose in October for the second month in a row and are now at their highest level since February 2007.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- were up 2.0% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million.
Sales were higher in all major regions saw monthly.
A convincing autumn revival
"October's strong sales gain was widespread throughout the country and can be attributed to the release of the unrealized pent-up demand that held back many would-be buyers over the summer because of tight supply," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyers are having more success lately despite low inventory and prices that continue to swiftly rise above incomes."
The median existing-home price for all housing types was $232,200, up 6.0% from a year earlier, marking the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Sales by region
- Existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 1.4% in October to an annual rate of 750,000 and are now 1.4% above a year ago. The median price was up 2.9% from a year earlier to $255,500.
- In the Midwest, sales grew to an annual rate of 1.6 million, up 2.3 %, and are now 6.3% above a year ago. The median price of $181,500 is a gain of 5.8% from October 2015.
- Sales in the South jumped 2.8% to an annual rate of 2.22 million, a year-over-year advance of 4.7%. The median price was $202,300, up 7.4% from a year ago.
- Previously-owned homes in the West sold at an annual rate of 1.27 million, up 0.8% from September and 10.4% higher than the same time a year previous. The median price rose 7.8% from October 2015 to $345,800.
Wayne Farms recalls ready-to-eat chicken breast products
Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may survive in the products11/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Wayne Farms of Oakwood, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,059 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may surv...
Wayne Farms of Oakwood, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,059 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.
Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may survives in the products.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse health effects due to consumption of these products.
The following ready-to-eat grilled chicken breast items, produced on August 1, 2016, and August 29, 2016, are being recalled:
- 9-lb. foodservice bulk cases of “Fully Cooked Grilled Chicken Breast Fillets” with case code 22121.
- 22.5-lb. foodservice bulk cases of “Fully Cooked Flame Grilled Chicken Breast Fillets” with case code 22423.
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 45411” or “P-45411” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail stores in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions may contact Wayne Farms at 1-800-241-3110.
The EPA has appeared to give into the demands of an industry trade group11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency put out a notice that appeared to strike fear in the agricultural pesticide industry, or the crop-pr...
You're going to cook it, so it's not necessary to give it a bath first11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
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Dog owners claimed the popular Purina chow made their pets sick11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
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Researchers say the rate still exceeds the national average11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
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Strikes at O'Hare and other airports postponed until after the holidays
Workers didn't want to complicate fliers' travel plans11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last week, we reported that hundreds of low-wage workers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago were poised to go on strike this week. Nearly 2,000 emp...
Last week, we reported that hundreds of low-wage workers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago were poised to go on strike this week. Nearly 2,000 employees – ranging from baggage handlers to security guards and cleaning staff – had voted on a walk-out over low wages, unpaid overtime, and retaliation against union organizers.
Many worried that the strike would affect consumers looking to fly for Thanksgiving, but now it seems that holiday air travelers won’t have to worry. ABC7 in Chicago reports that workers have decided to begin their protest the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 29.
Workers stated that they didn’t want to complicate plans for the nearly 22 million fliers looking to travel for the holidays. However, when the strike does finally start, they say that O’Hare won’t be the only airport affected. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has now said that almost 20 other airports will be joining in the strike, including big hubs like Newark International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.
“Workers will send a message to the major airlines that it’s time they take responsibility for their standards of service and care for the nearly two million passengers who travel through those major airports each day and for the workers whose dedication and hard work help to generate $36 billion in profits for the aviation industry,” SEIU officials said.
Safety tips to consider before buying holiday gifts for children
How to tell if the toy you're considering purchasing is right for the little one on your list11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Will you be shopping for children this holiday season? If so, it’s important to make sure that the gifts you purchase are both safe and appropriate for the...
Will you be shopping for children this holiday season? If so, it’s important to make sure that the gifts you purchase are both safe and appropriate for the children to whom they’ll be given.
It’s critical for gift-givers with kids on their holiday shopping list to scrutinize toy labels, use common sense, and make sure that gifts are age-appropriate. Before purchasing a toy, Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program manager at Children’s Hospital, recommends first doing some research.
In addition to making sure the child’s age falls within the product’s suggested ages, adults should look for quality construction and make sure labels on art supplies specify that the product is non-toxic.
To help those shopping for children this holiday season, the experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt released a few safety tips. Here’s what to do if you’ll be buying any of the following items for a child on your list.
- Bike. If you’ll be buying a new bike for a child, don’t forget the helmet. A helmet should also accompany other riding toys, such as scooters or skateboards.
- Electronics. Electronics often require button batteries, which are swallowed by more than 2,800 children every year. Keep lithium battery-controlled devices, such as remote controls, musical greeting cards, flashing holiday jewelry, and watches out of reach of children.
- Television. Buying a new TV? Don’t forget the wall mount. TV tip-over fatalities happen more often than they should. Every three weeks, a child dies from an accident involving a tipped-over television. Keep kids safe by mounting heavy TVs.
- Magnets. Avoid giving a child under 6 a building set with small magnets. If the child were to swallow these small magnets, serious injury or death could occur.
- Marbles and balls. Avoid marbles and balls with a diameter of less than 1.75 inches.
- Projectile toys. Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and slingshots aren’t recommended for any age. But if you do choose to purchase them, they should be given to older children only.
- BB guns. BB guns shouldn’t be considered toys. Children require proper training and supervision while using a BB gun.
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We associate some holidays with certain risks -- fireworks on the 4th of July, heavy traffic on Memorial Day, and so forth. And now Thanksgiving has its ve...
Deck the halls -- and all that jazz
Companies say they plan to spend more on holiday parties this year11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Is the company you work throwing a holiday party this year? If so, chances are it'll be better than last year's.Challenger, Gray & Christmas says its a...
Is the company you work throwing a holiday party this year? If so, chances are it'll be better than last year's.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas says its annual survey finds that 80% of companies are planning parties this year, and that just over 21% will be spending more for them.
Chalk it up to a stable economy and rising corporate profits.
After dipping in the last of half of 2015, corporate profits are back above $1.6 trillion, according to government data. “Our survey suggests that employers are ready to spend some of those profits on their workers,” said John A. Challenger, the outplacement consultancy's CEO.
The Challenger survey was conducted in October among a small sampling of approximately 100 human resources executives, representing a variety of industries across the country.
More than 66% of those who responded said they'll be hiring caterers or event planners -- up 4% from last year. Firms are also allowing more guests at their parties: 42.9% will include spouses or family; just 31% did in 2015.
“Company holiday parties are a great way for employers to thank workers for a successful year,” said Challenger. “For employees, it’s a great way to meet and interact with co-workers and managers who are not part of one’s daily routine. If you happen to be attending the holiday party of a spouse or friend, it could be a great opportunity to network.”
“In addition to the benefits, however, holiday parties can be fraught with risks, for both employers, employees, and guests,” Challenger warned. “The biggest risk, of course, is related to alcohol consumption.”
In fact, almost 62% of those responding to the survey said their holiday parties would include alcohol, versus 54% who said they would open the bar last year.
“Serving alcohol can make for a more celebratory mood, but it also has pitfalls, especially for employees and their guests. Company parties are not necessarily a time to let loose,” Challenger cautioned.
Just 20% of respondents said that their companies won't be having a party this year, 16% of which said they never do. The percentage of companies not having parties is on par with the percentage of companies not having parties a year ago.
Tips for partiers
OK party animals, here are some guidelines from Challenger for getting the most out of your attendance:
- Arrive early -- This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
- Work the room -- It's easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
- Do NOT over-indulge -- Free booze can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything that will embarrass you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions don't get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
- Be friendly, but not too friendly -- The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
- Avoid talking business -- This isn't the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection may help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
- Attend other companies’ parties -- Fifty-two percent of company parties are employees only. If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go. It's an opportunity to expand your professional network, which is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.
Feds reverse course, increase oversight of Wells Fargo
Office of Comptroller of the Currency must approve any senior leadership changes11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A federal regulator has revoked its earlier position and will increase its oversight of Wells Fargo, adding to the fallout from the bank's fake accounts sc...
A federal regulator has revoked its earlier position and will increase its oversight of Wells Fargo, adding to the fallout from the bank's fake accounts scandal.
The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a brief statement, saying the bank must now get OCC approval for any changes to its board of directors and senior leadership. Specifically, the OCC said it must approve any senior executive severance packages, known in the business as “golden parachutes.”
In early September, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $100 million fine for secretly opening checking and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge. Federal regulators who brought the enforcement action claimed the bank did that so it could meet its sales quota for new accounts.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said the bank employees, under pressure to meet targets and earn sales incentives, opened more than two million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.
Largest CFPB fine ever
“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at the time. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed.”
The bank responded by firing 5,300 employees it said were responsible for the fake accounts, but lawmakers and regulators began looking more closely at the executive suite.
The heat fell squarely on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who was hauled before several Congressional committees to endure tongue lashings from a number of outraged lawmakers. Stumpf eventually announced his early retirement in an effort to quell the furor. The OCC announcement suggests the furor still has room to run.
Meanwhile, business at Wells Fargo has fallen dramatically. Fortune reported late last week that new accounting openings “fell off a cliff” in October. Checking account openings were down 44% from October 2015. New credit card accounts were down 50%. New CEO Tim Sloan said the decline in new accounts was expected.
New research reveals that endometriosis is the probable cause11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For couples looking to start a family, receiving the news that you or your loved one is pregnant is happy news. Unfortunately, there are some women for who...
Countdown to Black Friday is underway
Here are some last minute tips for finding bargains11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Coming up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their sho...
Coming up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their shopping. And even for those who plan to shop the day after Thanksgiving, there's less and less need to get up early and wait for a store to open.
Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer (CMO) at Eyeview, calls Black Friday “buy nothing day,” saying doorbuster deals are no longer grabbing consumers' attention. He suggests consumers should stay home Friday morning.
Phil Dengler, principal at shopping site BestBlackFriday.com, agrees that there are plenty of deals available right now, saying consumers need to stay alert. He notes that Amazon, Kohl's, Toys R Us, and other retailers have already started their online sales, so the deals are available right now.
But Dengler says consumers will have to wait until Wednesday night or Thanksgiving to find the biggest bargains.
“One thing we highly recommend is for everyone to download the apps for their favorite store,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “While this was important last year, its value is growing even more for 2016. In addition to early access for some stores, the apps are a great way to get alerted when deals go live. Since online doorbusters are so competitive, time is of the essence for every online Black Friday deal. We recommend the apps from Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.”
For shoppers going the brick-and-mortar route, Dengler says Thanksgiving will be the biggest day for deals. He says Walmart and other retailers will hand out wristbands for some of their top doorbusters, which will encourage consumers to arrive at stores before the doors open. Here's the site's pick for the top 25 Black Friday deals.
Not everything's cheap on Black Friday
It's long been known that, while there are some pretty good deals on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is not the best day to shop for everything. For example, if the item isn't included in the advertised specials, it's probably selling at its regular retail price on Black Friday.
The Washington Post reports an analysis of price data shows the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is the best time to shop for clothes and the best deals on electronics will be found on Thanksgiving, either at stores that are open or online. Shopping for toys? You might be better off waiting until Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday, after all, is threatening to eclipse Black Friday as a shopping day. In the days of dial-up internet service, many consumers would wait until they returned to work on Monday to make purchases, using their employers' broadband connections. As more holiday spending has moved online, retailers have used Cyber Monday as a time to roll out some of their best promotions.
Not deterred by cyber threats
Even people who have had a bad experience with cyber thieves will not be deterred from shopping online, according to a survey by TransUnion. The survey found 76% of shoppers who were victims of a holiday season hack might be fearful of the risks, but 94% said they still plan to shop for Cyber Monday deals.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects more than 137 million consumers will shop in one way or the other during the long Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday weekend. No doubt more sales will come online this year than last, driven largely by young people.
“For many millennials, every Thanksgiving weekend they can remember has involved hopping online to find the best deals,” said Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “For this group, it’s more than just a weekend of good deals, it’s a holiday tradition.”
Three good hotel rewards credit cards
The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express tops the list11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Not all travel rewards credit cards are alike. In addition to the variety of perks they offer, they tend to also reward different kinds of travel.An ai...
Not all travel rewards credit cards are alike. In addition to the variety of perks they offer, they tend to also reward different kinds of travel.
An airline card rewards frequent flying. A gasoline card provides extra cash back when you fill up. And a hotel credit card can give you a free night's stay here and there. Sometimes, it can give you a lot more.
It not only provides hotel perks, its points can be transferred to more than 30 airline loyalty programs, usually without any loss of points. And because Starwood points are generally worth more than other card points, cardholders usually get more bang for their buck.
All about flexibility
"To me, a good rewards card is all about flexibility," says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. "While the Starwood card doesn't have the flashiest sign-up bonus in the bunch, it does give cardholders plenty of options beyond just free hotel nights."
Starwood Hotels is owned by Marriott and operates more than 1,200 hotels under 11 brands, including Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis.
New cardholders earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 during the first three months the account is active. There's a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.
CreditCards.com also likes the Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card from Citi. New cardholders get rewarded with two free weekend nights at a Hilton hotel after spending $2,500 in the card's first four months.
Cardholders also receive an extra weekend night certificate every year when they spend at least $10,000. Other perks include trip cancellation and interruption protection, lost baggage insurance, and other extra insurance benefits.
“The only downside is Hilton points tend to be worth significantly less than the average card rewards point,” CreditCards.com says.
A third alternative is the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature card. CreditCards.com is impressed with its initial sign-up bonus – 50,000 points with the first purchase and 35,000 more after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days.
Cardholders can also earn 40,000 points and a free night every year if they spend $10,000 or more. But just like the Hilton HHonors Reserve card, the points provided by the Club Carlson card tend to be valued less than the industry average.
Symantec acquiring LifeLock for $2.3 billion
Deal helps Symantec expand beyond computer software products11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A major software security firm is buying a leading identify theft prevention service. Symantec, which produces Norton anti-virus software, is acquiring Lif...
A major software security firm is buying a leading identify theft prevention service. Symantec, which produces Norton anti-virus software, is acquiring LifeLock in a deal valued at $2.3 billion.
The boards of directors of both companies have already signed off but LifeLock shareholders will have the final say. Assuming they approve and other customary closing conditions are met, the deal should close in the first quarter of next year.
The acquisition marks the continued expansion of Symantec beyond the traditional anti-virus software products that fueled its initial growth. In an interview with Reuters, Symantec CEO Greg Clark said sales of Norton products have faced headwinds in recent years because of a decline in the number of personal computers in homes and offices.
Symantec said its acquisition of LifeLock will combine a leader in consumer security with a leading provider of identity protection and remediation services. It says the result will be the world’s largest consumer security business, providing a wide ranges of services and earning over $2.3 billion a year in estimated revenue.
New dimension to protection
“People’s identity and data are prime targets of cybercrime. The security industry must step up and defend through innovation and vigilance,” said Dan Schulman, Symantec Chairman. “With the acquisition of LifeLock, Symantec adds a new dimension to its protection capabilities to address the expanding needs of the consumer marketplace.”
There's little question that protecting against cyber crime is a growth industry. An estimated one-third of U.S. consumer have been victims of some sort of hack. As consumer concern about the threat grows, the industry has expanded its services.
LifeLock offers identify theft services, checking clients' credit for new account openings and credit applications. It also offers services to help consumers recover from an identity theft.
In the previous decade some of its marketing practices ran afoul of federal regulators. As recently as last year the Federal Trade Commission charged that Lifelock violated a 2010 settlement in which it agreed to stop making deceptive claims about its identity theft protection service.
For its part, LifeLock sees a merger with one of the largest computer security firms as a win-win for both companies. LifeLock CEO Hilary Schneider says the combined companies can deploy enhanced technology and analytics to improve services to consumers.
La Quercia recalls dried pork products
The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which could lead to an outgrowth of harmful bacteria11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
La Quercia of Norwalk, Iowa, is recalling approximately 932 pounds of cured, dried pork loin products.The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which...
La Quercia of Norwalk, Iowa, is recalling approximately 932 pounds of cured, dried pork loin products.
The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which could lead to an outgrowth of harmful bacteria.
There have been no confirmed reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.
The following whole and sliced pork loin items, produced between June 3, 2016, and Nov. 2, 2016, are being recalled:
- 2.65-lb. vacuum-sealed package containing one piece of “LOMO AMERICANO” with a best by date of 11/08/17 and lot #Z16D04V115516.
- 2.65-lb. vacuum-sealed package containing one piece of “LOMO AMERICANO” with a best by date of 10/31/17 and lot #Z16D04V116016.
- 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/07/17 and lot #P17B07C128416.
- 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/21/17 and lot #P17B21C129816.
- 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/18/17 and lot #P17B18C129516.
- 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 03/02/17 and lot # P17C02C130716.
- 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/28/17 and lot #P17B28C130516.
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 31797” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors and retail locations in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Stephanie Bates at (515) 981-1625.
Morty Pride Meats recalls pork barbeque products
The products contain soy, an allergen not declared on the label11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Morty Pride Meats of Fayetteville, N.C., is recalling approximately 237,891 pounds of pork barbeque products.The products were produced with Worcesters...
Morty Pride Meats of Fayetteville, N.C., is recalling approximately 237,891 pounds of pork barbeque products.
The products were produced with Worcestershire containing soy, an allergen not declared on the finished product label.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness, injury, or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The recalled items, produced and packaged from November 15, 2014, through November 11, 2016, are being recalled:
- 5-lb. of vacuum sealed bags of “Morty Pride Pork Barbeque, Electronically Cooked.”
- 12-oz of plastic cups of “Morty Pride Premium Pork Barbeque, Electronically Cooked.”
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 6668” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to institutions and retail locations in North Carolina and South Carolina.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Mickey Hudson at (910) 483-6004.
Model year 2016 Dodge Darts recalled
The windshield wiper circuit may fail11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 53,155 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured April 13, 2015, to June 7, 2016.Due to voltage spikes caused by a pr...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 53,155 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured April 13, 2015, to June 7, 2016.
Due to voltage spikes caused by a problem within the windshield washer pump, the windshield wiper circuit may fail.
Without functioning windshield wipers, the driver's visibility may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the windshield washer pumps, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 19, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S83.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sabra Dipping Co. is recalling numerous hummus products made prior to November 8, 2016.There are concerns over Listeria monocytogenes, which was identi...
Students who thought they would learn 'wealth strategies' got little more than debt, they alleged11/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Just days before they were to go to trial, a group of class action lawsuits against Trump University have been settled, with the 7,000 class members dividi...
The scenery and culture can take your breath away, but you might want to hold it while traveling11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
What’s it like to travel the beautiful Amalfi Coast? Exhilarating and thrilling are words that come to mind.Located along the southern coast of Italy,...
DraftKings and FanDuel agree to merge
Companies say it will save money, better serve players11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The two largest daily fantasy sports (DFS) enterprises, DraftKings and FanDuel, have agreed to merge. The transaction is expected to close next year, the c...
The two largest daily fantasy sports (DFS) enterprises, DraftKings and FanDuel, have agreed to merge. The transaction is expected to close next year, the companies said in a release.
The merger was not unexpected. Both companies have spent the last 18 months in the crosshairs of various state attorneys general, most notably Eric Schneiderman of New York, who sued the companies for violating the state's gambling laws.
The companies said the merger will enable them to better serve customers, who pay money to enter a team of actual sports players, winning points based on how those players perform in actual games. Winners can receive large cash prizes.
But the merger undoubtedly will help both enterprises control costs, which rose when they were forced to mount legal defenses in a number of states and later on to lobby various state legislatures for legal exemptions from gambling laws.
The companies from the beginning maintained they were exempt from gambling laws because their games were classified as games of skill, not chance. Many states took issue with that interpretation.
“We have always been passionate about providing the best possible experience for our customers and this merger will help advance our goal of building a transformational global sports entertainment platform,” said DraftKings CEO Jason Robins. “Joining forces will allow us to truly realize the potential of our vision, and as a combined company we will be able to accelerate the pace of innovation and bring a richer experience to our customers than we ever could have done separately.”
While officials don't expect a shutdown, delays may be prominent for holiday travel11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It might be a tumultuous Thanksgiving week for O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Yesterday, labor leaders at the airport said that “hundreds” of low...
Addressing your home's vulnerabilities can keep damage from occurring while you're away11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
It goes without saying that a home is safer when it’s occupied. Homes that are humming with activity are much less likely to be broken into. Having bodies...
CEO Musk says the deal will add $1 billion in revenue in 201711/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
At the end of October, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the automaker would begin manufacturing solar roof tiles that it would be tying into its househol...
Walmart rated highest, Amazon rated lowest11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A report by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, an advocacy group, rates major retailers on steps they have taken to eliminate toxic chemicals from the produ...
For now, it's only available for iOS devices11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Mozilla has rolled out a new mobile browser for iOS, Firefox Focus, that blocks third-party trackers, increasing privacy and possibly speeding up page-load...
Settlement with New York ends a practice that had driven up ticket prices11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The National Football League has agreed to end a mandatory ticket price floor policy that had driven up ticket prices for fans. The agreement is the result...
Highways in the cental U.S. see the most sleep-related fatalities11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
“Asleep at the wheel” is an old expression to suggest that someone isn't paying attention. But all too often it literally happens on the nation's highways,...
Study raises new health questions about teen use of e-cigarettes
Researchers link e-cigarettes to persistent cough11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Health officials have always been worried about teen smoking. Getting hooked on nicotine early in life makes it harder to quit later on and can lead to hea...
Health officials have always been worried about teen smoking. Getting hooked on nicotine early in life makes it harder to quit later on and can lead to health problems down the road.
When e-cigarettes were introduced to the marketplace, they drew the same kind of concern, as statistics showed teens were among the early adopters. While there is no tobacco in an e-cigarette, there is nicotine, and health activists worried that teens who used the devices would gravitate to cigarettes later on.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently reported that teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than smoke tobacco. By eighth grade, it says only 3.6% had started smoking but 9.5% were using e-cigarettes. By 12th grade, it found more than 16% were using e-cigarettes.
But being a gateway to tobacco is not the only concern about these nicotine delivery systems. New research suggests even those who don't later start lighting up can be damaging their health by inhaling the nicotine-laden vapor.
Persistent cough and bronchitis
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) say they have found an association between e-cigarettes and development of a persistent cough, bronchitis, and congestion or phlegm in the young people who use them.
“E-cigarettes are known to deliver chemicals toxic to the lungs, including oxidant metals, glycerol vapor, diketone flavoring compounds and nicotine,” said lead author Dr. Rob McConnell. “However, there has been little study of the chronic health effects of e-cigarettes.”
The study compared kids who had used e-cigarettes to those who had never tried “vaping.” It found that young people who had used e-cigarettes in the past were 85% more likely to exhibit respiratory symptoms. Current users were twice as likely.
“The Food and Drug Administration recently banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 years of age, and California just prohibited sale to young adults under 21,” McConnell said. “Our results suggest that these regulations and an environment that discourages the initiation of any tobacco product may reduce the burden of chronic respiratory symptoms in youth.
But because e-cigarettes are relatively new, McConnell said he believes they need additional study so doctors can better understand their long-term effects.
McDonald's outlines plans to modernize
Ordering kiosks, mobile payments, and table service part of the future11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
McDonald's executives have outlined sweeping changes planned for the fast food franchise, designed to reduce staffing needs while streamlining and moderniz...
McDonald's executives have outlined sweeping changes planned for the fast food franchise, designed to reduce staffing needs while streamlining and modernizing the operation.
At press briefings in New York and Los Angeles, McDonald's said it is adding ordering kiosks to restaurants, installing “smart” menu boards, implementing mobile payments capabilities to its app, and will begin offering custom sandwiches and table service.
The moves are designed to update McDonald's business model, along the lines of Panera Bread and Chick-Fil-A, both of which now bring food to customers' tables after they order.
Reuters reports that about 500 of McDonald's 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. have already made some of the changes – notably stores in New York, Florida, and California. The company stopped short of giving a time frame for the changes to be implemented, but said outlets in Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco are next on the list.
Mobile roll-out in 2017
Mobile ordering will be a pilot project in the first half of next year in select markets, with a full national roll-out anticipated in the second half of 2017.
The ordering kiosks, which are estimated to cost franchisees as much as $60,000, will likely reduce the number of employees a McDonald's restaurant will need to operate. The company has borne the brunt of labor pressure to increase the hourly wage of fast-food workers.
As we reported earlier this year, McDonald's franchises have been experimenting with changes that the company may or may not have been considering for incorporation into its system. A Missouri franchise owner built a 6,500 square foot store and outfitted it with upholstered furniture. Interestingly, he also experimented with all-you-can-eat French fries. At the time, it suggested the 61-year old company is open to new ideas.
Not a new idea
As for ordering kiosks, this is hardly a new idea for the golden arches. In early 2015, McDonald's told financial analysts that ordering kiosks were on the way. Other quick serve restaurants have successfully used these kiosks, and McDonald's may be looking at them as a way to deal with the pressure to increase employee wages.
Part of the pressure to raise wages likely stems from recent structural changes in the economy. Many fast food restaurants created jobs designed to be filled by teenagers living at home.
But because so many jobs have recently disappeared from the economy, that's not always who's standing behind the counter these days.
This year, Amazon introduces 'voice shopping'
With Black Friday a week away, Amazon looks for a new wrinkle11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
With Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introdu...
With Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introducing bargains that are only available if you order on it's voice interactive technology, Alexa.
Today through Monday, consumers who ask “Alexa, what are your deals?” will get access to an exclusive set of discounts on popular gift items. Consumers may order with voice commands on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire HD tablet, or Amazon Fire TV.
“This is the first holiday that Prime members will be able to use their voice to shop and we’re excited to offer exclusive deals they won’t find anywhere else,” said Assaf Ronen, Amazon's vice-president for Voice Shopping. “Voice shopping with Alexa takes the hassle out of the holidays, giving customers the ability to order from millions of items simply by saying the word.”
New deals each day
Ronen says the voice-only deals will be updated each day during the promotion.
Amazon says the Alexa-only deals will include $80 off a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV; $30 off on a Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App controlled robot; $80 off on Beyerdynamic Limited Edition headphones; and $130 off on a 10-piece All-Clad stainless steel cookware set.
Similar to Apple's Siri, Alexa is the voice service that powers Echo, providing capabilities that allow users to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice commands.
While consumers no doubt will take part in Black Friday sales in great numbers this year, the numbers may continue to diminish as more sales move online and retailers spread their bargains over a wider timeframe.
Black Friday shopping tips
Whenever consumers do their shopping, Ash Exantus, Financial Empowerment Coach at BankMobile, suggests shoppers make a list and holiday budget to avoid overspending. He also suggests leaving your plastic at home and using cash instead. He says that will ensure you stick to your budget and avoid getting caught up in Black Friday's emotional appeal.
“Shopping, especially on Black Friday, is psychological warfare,” Exantus said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “You are literally in a battle between you and your pockets vs. retailers and marketers.”
It's called Black Friday for a reason, Exantus says. It's the day when retailers get into the black for the year, often at consumers' expense.
Spoiler Alert aims to reduce food waste by recycling surplus food
The startup finds uses for leftover food by facilitating connections between companies11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Here in the U.S., an estimated 40% of food goes uneaten. Now, a new startup called Spoiler Alert is making strides toward mitigating the problem of food wa...
Here in the U.S., an estimated 40% of food goes uneaten. Now, a new startup called Spoiler Alert is making strides toward mitigating the problem of food waste and hunger in America. Aiding its efforts: a partnership with Sysco corporation and $2.5 million in funding.
It coordinates these connections using cloud-based software, CEO Ricky Ashenfelter recently told TechCrunch. “We offer the relevant accounting and reporting systems to capture tax benefits and document important financial, environmental, and social metrics,” Spoiler Alert explained on its website.
Selling imperfect produce
The CEO said he hopes Spoiler Alert will eventually help food and beverage companies get rid of organic waste in every sustainable way possible. He also hopes to obtain the resources to allow prepared food from restaurants and catering services to be donated instead of thrown out.
Seasonal jobs are still available
We have some tips to aid you in your job search11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
With Black Friday just a week away, you might think it's too late to look for a seasonal job. However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&C;) says you'd be w...
With Black Friday just a week away, you might think it's too late to look for a seasonal job. However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&C;) says you'd be wrong.
While it's true that most retailers have completed their hiring of temporary workers, you shouldn't throw in the towel, just yet.
“It is never too late to find holiday jobs,” said CG&G; chief executive officer John A. Challenger. “There is a lot of churn in the sectors that typically hire seasonal workers and because employers are often hiring a lot workers in a short amount of time, there is a strong chance that many of those new workers will not pan out.”
The hiring continues
In its September forecast, the global outplacement firm predicted holiday hiring will remain flat from a year ago. Should that be on the money, about 740,000 seasonal workers will be added to retail payrolls in the final three months of the year.
The bulk of this hiring typically occurs in late October and early November, and is usually reflected in the government's December employment report.
“That being said, we continue to see hiring in late November and into early December,” said Challenger. “On average, retail employment has grown by an average of 145,000 over the last five years. It is important to remember that these figures don’t include seasonal job gains outside of the retail sector. Job seekers can also be looking for holiday jobs in hotels, restaurants, catering companies, and warehouse and shipping facilities.”
The primary reason to not give up on the holiday job search is that the sectors that have the strongest need for seasonal workers are also those that typically see the highest turnover.
A 2014 report from the Hay Group, a management consulting firm, indicated that the turnover rate in the retail industry averaged 66% for part-time hourly sales associates.
Last year in the hospitality industry -- another major employer of seasonal workers -- the turnover rate averaged 72%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“These high turnover rates, which are likely to be even higher among seasonal workers, mean that job seekers pursuing holiday employment should not hesitate to return to employers where they previously failed to get a job offer. The situation can change overnight,” said Challenger.
What to do
Challenger offers the following tips for holiday job-seekers:
- Visit employers in person. It is tempting to conduct a job search from behind the computer screen. However, many retailers will not post their seasonal jobs online -- particularly smaller mom and pop stores.
- Return to previous attempts. Don’t hesitate to go back to employers where you might have failed to get a job. Staffing needs may have changed or they may have lost one or more seasonal workers.
- Think outside the (big) box. Retailers undoubtedly have the strongest need for seasonal workers, but don’t overlook entertainment venues, restaurants, caterers, and other businesses that are busy during the holidays. And, since more shoppers buy online, shipping companies like UPS and FedEx have enormous demand for seasonal workers.
- Be flexible. The most challenging jobs to fill are those with overnight or early morning positions dedicated to receiving new shipments and restocking floors. If you're willing to work any hours thrown your way you'll have a leg up on the competition.
- Start with places you shop/visit. If you're a frequent customer at a particular store or restaurant, start your job search there. Even if you don't have a “relationship” with the manager or staff, they are likely to recognize you as a regular, which may give you an advantage.
Model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees recalled
The vehicles may leak fuel11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 30,183 model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured February 10, 2016, to April 28, 2016 and equ...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 30,183 model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured February 10, 2016, to April 28, 2016 and equipped with a 3.6L engine built at the Saltillo engine plant.
During assembly of the engine, the fuel rail crossover tube may have been damaged, which, over time, may result in a fuel leak.
A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the engine assembly for damage to the fuel rail crossover tube, replacing it as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 19, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S85.
Skidders Footwear recalls children’s shoes
Rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Skidders Footwear of New York is recalling about 5,500 pairs of children’s shoes.The rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard....
Skidders Footwear of New York is recalling about 5,500 pairs of children’s shoes.
The rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard.
The firm has received three reports of the rivets scratching the feet of the wearer. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Skidders Footwear children’s canvas tennis shoes sold in three sizes: 12M, 18M and 24M.
The shoes have white rubber bottoms and come in three different colors: navy blue fabric with orange rivets and laces, gray fabric with green rivets and laces, and denim colored fabric with pink rivets and laces.
The shoes, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Meijer stores located in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin from August 2016, through October 2016, for about $10.
What to do
Consumers should immediately take the recalled shoes away from children and contact Skidders Footwear to receive a full refund.
Consumers may contact Skidders at 866-636-1221, Monday-Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (EST), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at http://skidders.com/ and click on “recall notice at the bottom of the page.
Marine Agrifuture recalls Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo and Kahuku Sea Asparagus
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Marine Agrifuture of Kahuku, Hawaii, is recalling its Kahuku Ogo, “Robusta Ogo” and "Kahuku Sea Asparagus.The products may be contaminated with Salmone...
Marine Agrifuture of Kahuku, Hawaii, is recalling its Kahuku Ogo, “Robusta Ogo” and "Kahuku Sea Asparagus.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Fourteen cases of Salmonella on Oahu have been reported to date in connection with this problem.
The recalled products were distributed mainly in Hawaii to Seafood and Produce Distributors through direct delivery, but also to some customers in California, Washington, Nevada, and Tokyo, Japan, and were sold at local Farmers Markets in Hawaii.
The Ogo products come in plastic bags of various weights from 0.5 lb., to 35 lb., which were sold from November 2, 2016, and prior.
The Sea Asparagus, in 4-oz, 1-lb. clear plastic clamshell or in a 5-lb. plastic bag marked with a tracking number stamped on the lids or bags, were sold from November 8, 2016 and prior. The corresponding UPC numbers for 4-oz., 1-lb., and 5-lb., of sea asparagus are 897680001010, 897680001027 and 897680001041, respectively.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 808-779-2885, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday – Friday (Hawaiian time).
General Motors recalls Cadillac XT5s and GMC Acadias
The vehicles may leak brake fluid11/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
General Motors is recalling 1,844 model year 2017 Cadillac XT5s manufactured April 16, 2016, to May 9, 2016, and 2017 GMC Acadias manufactured April 19, 20...
General Motors is recalling 1,844 model year 2017 Cadillac XT5s manufactured April 16, 2016, to May 9, 2016, and 2017 GMC Acadias manufactured April 19, 2016, to April 22, 2016.
The front brake calipers may have a torn or misaligned caliper piston seal which may allow brake fluid to leak.
A brake fluid leak could reduce braking performance, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front brake calipers, replacing the brake caliper assemblies, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact GM customer service at 1-800-458-8006 (Cadillac), or 1-800-462-8782 (GMC). GM's number for this recall is 16096.
An independent report claims that there are high levels of glyphosate in American foods11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
In 2014, the United States' Government Accountability Office released a report that seemed to confirm what some food...
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, wields an outsized influence in local and national politics11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Earlier this month, nearly 100 people gathered in Texas’ state capital to demand that a billionaire oil pipeline operator resign from his post on the Texas...
Email doesn't have to be an insecure medium, as this fast-growing start-up shows11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Everyone knows by now that email is not a secure transmission medium and that everyone from the NSA to Google's ad researchers are constantly scanning emai...
The company submitted an application to launch over 4,000 satellites11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
There are over 1,400 functioning satellites currently orbiting the Earth, but that number could grow exponentially if Elon Musk has his way. The entreprene...
Unfounded beliefs from the 1700s can't be presented as scientific fact11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Homeopathy is sort of like religion. Lots of people believe in it even though there is no scientific evidence to support it. That's not necessarily bad in...
Do nothing complex or controversial, the agency is told11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It's not Jan. 20, 2017 yet and Barack Obama is still president of the United States, but Republican senators want the Federal Communications Commission to...
Positions and internships were often given based on referrals of foreign officials and clients and not merit11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
JPMorgan Chase has caught the ire of regulators for allegedly hiring and giving internships to candidates based on requests from foreign governments, offic...
Members get in-home checkups, medication reminders, and more11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Pets aren’t finding themselves at the veterinarian’s office as much these days. There’s been a drop in vet visits over the past few years, which the Americ...
Child safety group WATCH says there are hidden dangers in some of the year's most popular toys11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
In an effort to keep parents from unknowingly purchasing a toy that could harm their child, the child safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH)...
Unless you're a Baby Boomer living in the south, it might not be that high11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In your father's or grandfather's generation, consumers prided themselves on being able to perform simple – and not so simple – maintenance on their cars....
It started earlier, so applicants need to act sooner11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's not just the holiday season that's coming up quickly. It's also college application season, so prospective students need to be aware of the deadlines...
Retailer group rebels against Visa network
Claims new EMV terminals steer debit purchases to more expensive network11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The nation's retailers appear to be renewing their feud with credit card companies over the fees they charge for processing credit and debit purchases....
The nation's retailers appear to be renewing their feud with credit card companies over the fees they charge for processing credit and debit purchases.
Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Justice Department motion that the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals hear its case against American Express. The government maintains American Express is still blocking retailers from suggesting customers use a different card, in violation of the law.
Now, the NRF has sent a letter to Visa, asking that it stop using new EMV terminals to steer debit card transactions to its own processing network, which NRF says is more expensive for retailers to use.
In a letter to Visa CEO Charles W. Scharf, NRF points out the Federal Reserve has said Visa's action run counter to the law.
More expensive choice
NRF complains that many credit/debit card readers installed since the card industry began implementing new EMV chip card technology present debit card users with a screen that asks them to choose between “Visa Debit” and “U.S. Debit.”
Though they don't know it, when consumers choose Visa Debit, their transaction is routed over Visa's more expensive network. Instead of a PIN, the consumer is usually required to use only a signature to approve the transaction.
On the other hand, when a consumer chooses the U.S. Debit option, NRF says the transaction goes over the retailer’s choice from about a dozen competing networks that charge merchants less but provide more protection by allowing the use of a secret, secure PIN.
“Visa charges more and offers less security while the competition charges less and does a better job of keeping consumers’ debit cards safe,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan wrote.
Retailers say they should choose
Duncan says retailers should be allowed to choose the processor that provides the best value and offers their customers the best protection. He says that's what the law requires.
Why should consumers care? NRF says when costs rise for retailers, those costs get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.
NRF claims Visa is steering transactions toward the Visa network, and that the higher fees charged by Visa must be built into the cost of merchandise, ultimately contributing to higher prices paid by consumers.
The organization says the Fed ruled in early November that Visa's actions violate a 2010 debit card reform law that says retailers must be allowed to choose between at least two unaffiliated networks to process debit transactions.
Here's what employers look for when they do check you out11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When you apply for a job, you should probably expect to undergo a background check. It's almost standard practice these days.Or is it?A new survey...
The future also shows promise11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's almost as if you could hear the hammering and earth-moving without let-up last month.Figures released by the Commerce Department show construction...
Rising gasoline prices push October consumer prices higher
Initial jobless claims fall to lowest level since '7311/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Gasoline prices shot higher last month, bringing with them the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI).The Department of La...
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports prices were up a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in October and have jumped 1.6% over the last 12 months.
As was the case in September, rising gasoline and housing costs were behind the increase in the CPI. The 7.0% surge in the cost of gas accounted for more than half of the increase. Housing prices rose 0.4% for a second straight month.
Energy prices post significant gain
The cost of energy, due largely to the aforementioned increase in gas prices, was up 3.5% last month -- the sharpest advance since February 2013. Fuel oil costs rose 5.9%, while electricity and natural gas prices rose 0.4% and 0.9%, respectively.
Over the last 12 months, energy prices are up just 0.1%, the first 12-month increase since August 2014.
Food prices hold steady
The cost of food was unchanged in October for the fourth straight month. The food away from home category (restaurant costs ) inched up 0.1%, while food at home (groceries) fell 0.2%, the sixth decline in as many months
The prices of nonalcoholic beverages fell 0.4%, meats, poultry, fish, and eggs were down 0.7% -- the 14th consecutive monthly decline, and miscellaneous grocery prices were off 0.1%. Costs for cereals and bakery products were unchanged, while fruit and vegetable prices inched up 0.2%, and dairy and related products increased 0.3 %.
Grocery prices over the last 12 months are down 2.3%, the largest 12-month decline since December 2009. The cost of eating out, on the other hand, is up 2.4% over the last 12 months.
The cost of all items, excluding the volatile food and energy categories -- the “core rate” of inflation -- rose 0.1% for the second straight month.
Along with housing, prices for apparel, new vehicles, and motor vehicle insurance rose in October, along with education, household furnishings and operations, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco. Personal care, communication, used cars and trucks, recreation, and airfare costs all declined. Medical care prices were unchanged.
The core rate of inflation rose 2.1% for the 12 months ending in October and has remained in the narrow range of 2.1% to 2.3% since December 2015.
The complete report may be found on the DOL website.
Also from DOL, word that filings of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits plunged by 19,000 in the week ending November 12 to a seasonally adjusted total of 235,000.
That's the lowest level in 46 years. It also marks 89 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1970.
The four-week moving average, a more reliable gauge of the labor market because of its lack of volatility, came in at 253,500 -- a decline of 6,500 from the previous week.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
No change in builder confidence in November
Future sales expectations are lower, though11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes remained at its second highest level of the year in November. The National Associa...
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes remained at its second highest level of the year in November.
“Ongoing job creation, rising incomes and attractive mortgage rates are supporting demand in the single-family housing sector,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “This will help keep housing on a steady, upward glide path in the months ahead.”
The NAHB gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair," or "poor." The survey, which has been conducted for 30 years, also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low."
Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index, where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
The HMI components measuring buyer traffic rose one point to 47, while the index gauging current sales conditions held steady at 69. However, the component charting sales expectations in the next six months fell two points to 69.
“With most of our members responding before the November elections, confidence levels remained unchanged as they awaited the results,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. “Still, builder sentiment has held well above 60 for the past three months, indicating that the single-family housing sector continues to show slow, gradual growth.”
A look at at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores shows that the Northeast, Midwest, and West each posted two-point gains to 45, 58, and 77, respectively. The South was unchanged at 66.
IIHS: Most child booster seats do a fine job
That doesn't mean there aren't problems, though11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 ear...
Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.
Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 earn the top rating of BEST BET. That means they're likely to provide good belt fit for a 4 to 8 year-old in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.
By comparison, when the IIHS first started rating boosters in 2008, only a quarter of those evaluated earned the BEST BET designation.
However, several seats that don’t do their job and are rated Not Recommended can still be found on store shelves. Among them are two brand new models from Dorel Juvenile.
“Parents looking for a safe option for kids who have outgrown seats with built-in harnesses have more choices than ever,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian. “Unfortunately, we can’t declare total victory because manufacturers continue to sell subpar boosters.”
Of the 53 new seats, the Cosco Easy Elite and the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX -- both made by Dorel -- are rated Not Recommended. Three others, the Britax Parkway SGL in backless mode, the Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 in highback mode, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 are rated Check Fit, meaning they may work for some children in some vehicles. The remaining new seats are BEST BETs.
All told, there are 118 BEST BETs among currently available boosters, including old models. Additionally, there are nine GOOD BETs (seats that provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles), 27 Check Fit, and five Not Recommended.
A range of prices
Top-rated boosters are available in all different price ranges. Of the boosters introduced this year, the most affordable is the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe, available at Walmart for less than $25.
The most expensive is the $330 Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround, a rear-facing infant seat that converts first to a forward-facing child restraint and then to a booster as the child grows.
Complete ratings may be found at www.iihs.org/.
4C Foods recalls grated cheese products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella11/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
4C Foods Corp. is recalling 4C Grated Cheese, Homestyle Grated Cheese and Cento Grated Cheese brands due to possible Salmonella contamination.No illnes...
4C Foods Corp. is recalling 4C Grated Cheese, Homestyle Grated Cheese and Cento Grated Cheese brands due to possible Salmonella contamination.
No illnesses have been reported.
The following products, packed in 6-oz. vacuum-sealed glass jars of either 6 or 12 jars per case with BEST BY dates between November 12, 2016, and November 12, 2018, are being recalled:
- 4C All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-33126)
- 4C All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-37126)
- 4C All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-77126)
- 4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-32790)
- 4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-11627)
- 4C HomeStyle All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-12302)
- Cento Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90502)
- Cento Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90501)
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact 4C Foods at 866-969-1920 Monday- Friday, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM (ET).
A 4-year-old boy died when his family's Jeep was rear-ended and burst into flames11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) says it may appeal a Georgia court decision upholding a $40 m...
The chain's anti-pesticide move in Europe increases speculation11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
ALDI may be best known among U.S. grocery shoppers for its discount pricing. It doesn't bag your groceries and doesn't even provide bags.You pay a 25 c...
Clever twists that can prevent you from going overboard this Thanksgiving11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude, but it can also be a day of overindulgence. The health effects of a heavy meal can be exacerbated by remaining sedentar...
In the age of the 'Internet of Things,' security is a top priority11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Late last month, a massive denial-of-service (DoS) attack shut down access to many popular sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter. The way that hackers ma...
Why you should consider giving experiences instead of stuff this holiday season
Experiences spark gratitude in a way that possessions don't, research shows11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Gratitude is a powerful feeling that has the ability to shift your entire perspective. Research has found that gratitude can increase well-being and bring...
Gratitude is a powerful feeling that has the ability to shift your entire perspective. Research has found that gratitude can increase well-being and bring about higher life satisfaction, perhaps due to its ability to push out feelings of envy and depression.
Researchers from Cornell University recently delved into consumer behavior to find out which gifts trigger the highest levels of gratitude. What they found was that things often pale in comparison to experiences.
Doing Vs. Having
“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” explained Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author of the study.
Gratitude causes generosity
The link between gratitude and altruistic behavior “suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well,” said Amit Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago and co-author of the paper.
Researchers find that certain kinds of multitasking make consumers less able to complete a shopping task11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s not uncommon to see shoppers at a grocery store or mall on their phones, either trying to stay connected or complete some other errand. But can this k...
Amazon says its offering '35 days of deals'
Releases free app to help keep track of them11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Increasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black FridayThen again, the way things a...
Increasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black Friday
Then again, the way things are going, the stores might not be all that crowded on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
Amazon says it isn't waiting any longer. Starting Friday, and for the next 35 days, it says it will offer “Black Friday prices” as often as every five minutes, with deals heating up on Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Amazon is even launching a special app that can be downloaded for free to track the deals.
And customers with an iPhone can use something called Package X-Ray to see what is inside a box without opening it.
“Customers want to shop anywhere, any time, and any way, especially during the five super popular days for online shopping running from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday,” said Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon.
Some of the deals
Among the daily deals, Amazon says it will mark down select Disney toys and apparel by 60%; Barbi, Hot Wheels, and Fisher-Price toys will be half off.
In Electronics, it will offer a Samsung 32 inch 720p HDTV for $69.99; Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Closed Back Headphones for $99.95; and a 60-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $599.
Among Amazon's own devices, the Amazon Echo will sell for a $40 discount; the Kindle For Kids bundle will go for $69.99; and the Amazon Fire TV will be on sale for $74.99.
In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a spokeswoman for Amazon says the company has observed that customers are shopping on mobile devices at record-levels. She says mobile use should easily exceed last season's 70% rate.
Meanwhile, a new report from Vivint Smart Home, which surveyed 2,000 consumers, found there is widespread concern about “porch pirates” swiping package deliveries, but most consumers have been slow to take action to improve security.
Millennials expressed the most concern and appear to be the most vigilant generation when it comes to package theft. The report found nearly 40% of Millennials have had success in recovering stolen packages.
The latest Apple upgrade makes it easier than ever to unsubscribe from pesky email lists11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Build it and they will come. Make it easy to leave and they will. That seems to be the takeaway behind the news that email "unsubscribes" have jumped 75% a...
New United fare limits carry-on bags
Passengers flying Basic Economy won't have access to the overhead bins11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Since airlines began tacking on fees for checked bags, airline passengers have tried to carry as much of their luggage as possible into the cabin of the ai...
Since airlines began tacking on fees for checked bags, airline passengers have tried to carry as much of their luggage as possible into the cabin of the aircraft, cramming it into the overhead bins.
A new fare from United Airlines aims to free up some space in the overhead compartments.
United has introduced what it calls its Basic Economy fare, which has a number of features. But the one getting the most attention is what passengers can and cannot carry on.
According to the airline, carry-on bags will be limited to one personal item, unless the customer is a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.
And notably, that one carry-on item has to be small enough to fit under the seat. It's not going in the overhead bin. If the carry-on item doesn't fit under the seat, it will have to be checked and the passenger will be charged the applicable fee.
Other features of the Basic Economy fare include automatic seat assignments in which a party traveling together may not sit together and will be in the last boarding group. Basic Economy passengers will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades. There will also be no voluntary ticket changes except as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.
United says Basic Economy fares won't be offered in all markets, and the selection of flights where they are available will be subject to change. Consumers will know when it is available as an option because it will be displayed along with the rest of the flight's seating options.
“You'll be able to book Basic Economy tickets the same ways that you book other United flights, including through united.com, the United app, the United Customer Contact Center, a travel agency or other online booking tools,” the airline said.
Despite all the limitations, United is quick to point out that consumers flying Basic Economy will get many of the other amenities other coach passengers enjoy, including food and beverage service, in-flight entertainment, and Wi-Fi.
White supremacists have labeled the brand 'official White people shoes'11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Setting foot in the world of politics is always tricky for businesses. Lobbying legislators quietly is one thing, but making public pronouncements about po...
Simply deleting files isn't enough11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Even though consumers are using their smartphones instead of PCs more and more, nearly everyone has a computer or two around the house, taking up space. An...
Inflation on the wholesale level unchanged in October
While goods prices were on the rise, the cost of services declined11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Wholesale prices, or what the Labor Department calls the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand, held steady in October for the second time in three m...
Wholesale prices, or what the Labor Department calls the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand, held steady in October for the second time in three months.
The PPI rose 0.3% in September and, for the 12 months ended in October, was up 0.8%, the largest such increase since a 0.9% advance in December 2014.
Within final demand in October, a 0.4% increase in the index for final demand goods offset a 0.3% decline in prices for final demand services.
Goods prices head higher
A surge in energy costs (+2.5%), the result of a jump of 9.7% in the cost of gasoline, led the cost of goods higher. Also contributing to the increase were higher prices for light motor trucks, beef and veal, industrial chemicals, jet fuel, and liquefied petroleum gas.
Prices for fresh and dry vegetables, electric power and for iron and steel scrap were lower
The cost of services falls
A decline of 0.3% in the cost of services following a 0.1% rise in both August and September helped keep wholesale inflation in check The drop was led by prices for securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice, and related services (-5.7%), along with declines in the costs of food and alcohol retailing; fuels and lubricants retailing; apparel, jewelry, footwear, and accessories retailing; consumer loans (partial); and hospital outpatient care.
Prices for truck transportation of freight, machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesaling and guestroom rental were higher.
The “core rate” of wholesale inflation, which excludes the volatile foods energy, and trade services categories, dipped 0.1% last month after rising 0.3% in both August and September.
For the 12 months ended in October, the core was up 1.6%, the sharpest increase since it climbed 1.7% for the 12 months ended September 2014.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
Mortgage applications plunge as contact interest rates soar
Some rates are at their highest level since early 201611/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Applications for mortgages have now fallen for a fourth consecutive week.Data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) show applications were...
Applications for mortgages have now fallen for a fourth consecutive week.
Data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) show applications were down 9.2% in the week ending November 11, as contract interest rates rose to levels unseen -- in some cases -- since early this year
The Refinance Index plummeted 11% from the previous week to its lowest level since March 2016, with refinance share of mortgage activity dipping to 61.9% of total applications from 62.3% the week before.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 4.7% of total applications, the FHA share increased to 12.2% from 11.6% a week earlier, the VA share was 12.6%, and the USDA share of total applications slipped to 0.6% from 0.7% the week prior.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose 18 basis points -- from 3.77% to 3.95% -- its highest level since January, with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to its highest level since January -- 3.89%, from 3.75% -- with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.27 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA shot up 12 basis points to 3.73%, its highest level since April, with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs rose to its highest level since March -- 3.15% from 3.03% -- with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs surged 19 points to 3.11%, its highest level since March, with points decreasing to 0.42 from 0.47 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
"Following the election, mortgage rates saw their biggest week-over-week increase since the taper tantrum in June 2013, and reached their highest level since January of this year,” said MBA President and CEO David H. Stevens. “Investor expectations of faster growth and higher inflation are driving the jump up in rates, and rates have now increased for five of the past six weeks, spurring a commensurate drop in refinance activity."
The "taper tantrum," according to Investopedia, is the term used to refer to the surge in U.S. Treasury yields, which resulted from the Federal Reserve's use of tapering to gradually reduce the amount of money it was feeding into the economy.
It began when investors panicked in reaction to news of this tapering and drew their money rapidly out of the bond market, which increased bond yields The "taper tantrum," according to Investopedia, is the term used to refer to the surge in U.S. Treasury yields, which resulted from the Federal Reserve's use of tapering to gradually reduce the amount of money it was feeding into the economy.
It began when investors panicked in reaction to news of this tapering and drew their money rapidly out of the bond market, which increased bond yields drastically.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Flight cancellations hit all-time low in September
No tarmac delays were reported during the month11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Airlines canceled a miniscule 0.3% of their scheduled domestic flights in September.According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), that's the low...
Airlines canceled a miniscule 0.3% of their scheduled domestic flights in September.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), that's the lowest level for any of the 261 months with comparable records since January 1995. The previous low point had been 0.4% a year earlier.
In more good news for the flying public, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.
As it released its report, the government made information about discrimination complaints it's received public for the first time. The data covers the number of complaints received in each of the protected classes of race, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, and sex.
From January to September 2016, 67 complaints were filed by consumers claiming discrimination by airlines: 52 regarding race, eight regarding national origin, one regarding color, two regarding religion, and four regarding sex.
This is an increase from the 49 complaints alleging discrimination received during the first nine months of last year. In September 2016 alone, there were six complaints alleging discrimination -- three regarding race, two regarding national origin, and one regarding religion. This compared with the total of eight recorded in September 2015 and the 15 recorded in August 2016. All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated.
The consumer report also includes data related to on-time performance, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays, along with a range of issues such as flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, and disability.
The complete report is available on the DOT website.
Ashby's Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
House of Flavors of Ludington, Mich., is recalling its Ashby’s Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream.The product may be contaminated with Listeria...
House of Flavors of Ludington, Mich., is recalling its Ashby’s Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There are no reports of illness attributed to this product.
The recalled product, packaged in a three-gallon container with item number 7305 and lot number #16195, was sold to distributors and ice cream shops nationally.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should dispose of it and contact their distributor for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact House of Flavors consumer affairs at 1-800-930-7740, extension 2229, Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. (EST).
The renewable industry isn't expecting more tax breaks, but they are optimistic that they will keep what exists.11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
The mainstream media conveniently ignores that President-elect Donald Trump cares about birds. “The [Obama] administration fast-tracked wind projects that...
Post-election uproar seems to be dampening holiday shopping spirit
About the only businesses reporting an upsurge are food delivery11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
For months, we couldn't wait for the presidential campaign to be over. Now it's over and the country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Angry Democrats...
For months, we couldn't wait for the presidential campaign to be over. Now it's over and the country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Angry Democrats have taken to the streets to vent their anger while Republicans are outraged at the Democrats' reaction.
The many millions who don't hold strong opinions are stuck in the middle, and many of them also appear to be stuck in their homes. Food delivery businesses report that more people are ordering in, staying inside rather than facing possible confrontation in the streets. Or maybe they're just so fed up they don't want to see anyone else.
It's not just food delivery that's affected. Robert Passikoff, founder and president of research firm Brand Keys, says consumers aren't thinking of sugarplums or shopping lists, likely meaning reduced holiday spending and a lack of, shall we say, holiday cheer.
It's Brand Keys' 22nd annual holiday shopping survey and Passikoff says it's atypical of other presidential election years. Consumers are making shopping decisions later than usual, planning to shop later than in previous years, and also planning to spend lesss, an average of $900 per household.
"This year a good deal of consumer emotion and attention were spent on the election," noted Passikoff. "And it's clear that consumers were waiting for some resolution and calm before they spent a lot of energy thinking about the holidays."
Passikoff says consumers "seem to be seeking comfort, balance, and gratification in a stress-free period of time" and are likely to spend about the same as last year while taking the time to find the perfect gifts.
Where they'll shop
Virtually all consumers interviewed (98%) are buying online again this year -- the default venue for browsing for gifts, promotions, price checking, and buying. That noted, brick-and-mortar retailers still rank high on consumers' list of places they intend to shop, with consumers, again this year, using multiple venues, Passikoff said.
|Store type||2016 %||Chg from 2015|
|Specialty & apparel stores||45%||-|
Catalogues are down again, with consumers seeming to feel that if they can pull up the same content on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, the hard-copy catalog is redundant.
Just as in holiday seasons past, value is paramount for all platforms. Consumer expectations regarding outreach and convenience, particularly for mobile, are up again. Shopping experience for brick-and-mortar retailers are all up too, said Passikoff. This year, in particular, retailers that can provide a sense of consumer comfort will see better bottom lines.
Free shipping and returns, order online-pick up in store, or ship-to-store options will have holiday shoppers' attentions this year too.
Experts say parents can ease their baby's pain without teething tablets, gels, or pain relievers11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Recently, the FDA warned against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels. These products, the agency said, can pose a health risk to children. Con...
The discovery of a novel protein in the eye could help treat diseases like AMD11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Most consumers accept that certain physical changes occur when we get older. To many, one of those conditions is worsening eyesight, but there are currentl...
How many web pages are there? Google estimates 130 trillion
To avoid being swallowed up, sites are developing more personalized advertising11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
There used to be an awful lot of fish in the sea. There aren't so many anymore but, if it's any comfort, there are about 130 trillion web pages, according...
There used to be an awful lot of fish in the sea. There aren't so many anymore but, if it's any comfort, there are about 130 trillion web pages, according to Google's latest estimate.
That's up from about 30 trillion in March 2013 and, while the acquatic environment may not be what it used to be, the virtual environment is doing just fine, assuming you're not trying to draw attention to your website.
Google and the other search engines do a pretty amazing job of finding pages that match consumers' search requests, but the companies, organizations, and individuals who are trying to attract eyeballs to their pages have a task that grows ever more difficult.
It's not unusual these days for new sites -- professionally produced, packed with useful or entertaining information, and organized for maximum search engine exposure -- to get literally no viewers without resorting to increasingly expensive paid advertising.
There are just about as many theories on how to improve websites' performance as there are stars in the sky, and finding a successful strategy is like looking for that always elusive needle in the haystack.
Not getting easier
But don't delay. It won't be getting easier. Cisco Systems recently estimated that global internet traffic in 2020 will be 95 times the volume of the entire global internet in 2005. It's Moore's Law on steroids.
What's all this mean for consumers? Hard to say, but it's likely to mean more advertising as sites struggle to get your attention. Fortunately, marketers are working to tailor their ads to individual preferences, meaning that in theory you should see only ads about goods and services that you use regularly or may soon need or want.
Several recent studies have found that consumers don't mind ads so much when they're seen as relevant, so perhaps the internet will manage to get not just bigger but better.
Start of new TSA Pre-Check program hits a bump in the road
The agency will postpone hiring private vendors that perform background checks11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Back in May, we reported how consumers were becoming increasingly frustrated with airport security delays. Lines in some of the nation’s prominent hubs see...
Back in May, we reported how consumers were becoming increasingly frustrated with airport security delays. Lines in some of the nation’s prominent hubs seemed to be endless, but TSA stated that it was understaffed and unable to deal with the volume of travelers.
One solution that the agency suggested for passengers was enrolling in its PreCheck program, which makes the screening process much quicker. Officials hoped to enroll 25 million U.S. travelers in the program, but those numbers haven’t materialized – and now there appears to be another bump in the road.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, TSA has put the brakes on hiring private vendors that could help register fliers for TSA Pre-Check. The reason? The agency feels that using new vendors would be unwise “in light of the increased and evolving cybersecurity risks over the past year.”
TSA officials say they are concerned that cyber criminals could target new vendors that perform background checks on passengers to steal private information.
While the move may be welcomed by privacy and consumer advocacy groups, it certainly won’t win many points with frustrated travelers who want to sign up for the program. Sources report that only 4 million people have been signed up for the TSA Pre-Check program thus far, well below their stated goal.
Critics say that the blame for future long lines may land squarely on TSA. For those who don’t remember how bad things got this past summer, here’s a video taken from a traveler at Chicago’s Midway airport. Please note that the footage does contain strong language.
However, there is some hope that things will run more smoothly going forward. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger has said that a plan approved by Congress – which created 13,068 new positions and converted 2,000 part-time screeners to full-time employees – could make a big difference in expediting the security check process.
Additionally, Neffenger stated that the agency has put together a “deployment force” made up of 1,000 screeners that can be sent to any airport that is expected to see an influx of air travelers. This mobile force could help alleviate the stress of many holiday travelers that are expected to surge in the coming months.
Why your spouse's stress could make you gain weight
Older adults gain weight when their partner is stressed, study finds11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Having the ability to read your spouse’s mood can be a good thing. When partners can sense that something is weighing on the mind of their loved one, they...
Having the ability to read your spouse’s mood can be a good thing. When partners can sense that something is weighing on the mind of their loved one, they can spring into action with efforts to help ease their mental burden.
"We found that your partner's stress, and not your own, predicted an increased waist circumference over time," said Kira Birditt, a research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
Quality of marriage
Birditt and her colleagues found that when a stressful circumstance occurred for more than a year, it could lead to a negative quality of marriage -- and, in turn, weight gain. The results also appeared to vary by gender.
"Wives were 1.6 times more likely to have an increase in waist circumference when their husbands reported greater stress and greater negative marriage quality," Birditt said.
Interestingly, husbands were more than twice as likely to have a 10% increase in waist size when their wives were stressed but weren’t complaining about marriage quality. Birditt said she couldn't explain that difference.
The findings show that "marriage has powerful influences on health," the authors said. Birditt pointed out that the effect of marriage quality on older couples’ weight could be explained by the use of one particular coping strategy: eating.
The study is published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.
The company is hoping to avoid having to buy back all of the dirty diesel cars11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Another chapter in the Volkswagen dirty diesel scandal may be drawing to a close. Reports today say that VW has reached an agreement with federal and Calif...
Retailers press court challenge to American Express rules
Want freedom to steer consumers to card with lower fees11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The Retail Litigation Center and the National Retail Federation say stores that accept American Express cards must abide by the American Express' rules....
The Retail Litigation Center and the National Retail Federation say stores that accept American Express cards must abide by the American Express' rules.
One of those rules, they say, is retailers are barred from doing anything to encourage consumers from using a different credit card, with a lower processing fee. Retailers, quite naturally, would prefer not to have to pay American Express' higher swipe fee.
The two organizations have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to hear retailers' challenge to the American Express rules, charging they are a violation of antitrust laws.
“While intense competition is a hallmark of the retail industry, it is largely absent from the credit card market where fees continue to skyrocket,” said RLC President Deborah White.
White accuses American Express of stifling competition by imposing rules that don't allow retailers to offer consumers discounts or other incentives to use a lower-cost credit card. That, she says, ends up costing consumers money. She says the policy also prevents consumers from fully understanding their cost of using a credit card.
NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan says the swipe fees retailers have to pay eventually get passed on to consumers.
“All swipe fees are too high, but American Express fees are among the highest,” Duncan said. “That’s their choice, but they should not be allowed to stand in the way of retailers simply asking their customers if they have another card.”
Government regulators have weighed in on this issue in the past. Visa and MasterCard no longer impose a policy banning card steering after a 2010 settlement with the Justice Department. The Justice Department sued American Express over its rules and won in Federal Court in February.
But American Express appealed and a three judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled in its favor in September. The Justice Department is now asking for a full court review of the case.
The case appears to be a continuation of the long-running conflict between retailers and card issuers over swipe fees.
After years of retailers complaining about swipe fees charged by credit card companies, the Federal Reserve moved in 2011 to cap the fees at a lower rate. But since Congress said the fees should reflect bank's actual costs, retailers maintain the fees are still too high.
It's the second year in a row for the popular compact11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
For the second year in a row, the 2017 Honda Civic has driven away with Kelley Blue Book's (KBB) Overall Best Buy Award. The 2016 Civic took the honors las...
The FTC said fake news sites were used to promote the supposed weight loss supplement11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Fake news websites have been getting a lot of attention following the no-holds-barred presidential campaign, but they have a long history of being used to...
FAA blocks off big swatch of NYC until after Trump's inauguration11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Qatar Airways is being fined $185,000 for operating flights in restricted regions. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the airline was carrying...
Some Black Friday deals may look familiar
If you think you've seen these doorbusters before, maybe you have11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
With Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw...
With Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw last year.
Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com analyzed every advertised deal from 25 stores, checking this year's ad against last year's. It found lots of re-runs.
“It is no big deal when stores are repeating a general 50% off all clothing deal, but it is concerning when stores are offering last year's electronics for more money,” said Best Black Friday principal Phil Dengler.
The analysis shows nearly all – 24 out of 25 stores – are repeating at least one deal from last year. Best Black Friday found three repeated deals at 22 stores and five repeated deals at 20 stores. More than half the stores had at least one repeated sales item they were charging more for this year.
Dengler says re-running a Black Friday deal from last year is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something consumers should know about.
Imports are up
Meanwhile, retailers appear to be restocking their holiday shelves this year with more imported items. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports imports at the nation’s major retail container ports should rise 4.4% this month, with a slightly bigger increase expected next month.
“Most of the holiday merchandise is already here, but retailers are still restocking to be sure shoppers will have a broad and deep selection as they hit the stores over the next several weeks,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.
Economists often watch retail imports for clues about the direction of the economy. Gold says the rise in end of the year imports suggests retailers expect to sell more this year than last year.
Private label credit cards
Consumers may be paying for their holiday purchases with more private label credit cards. A report from TransUnion shows the number of these accounts usually surges during December.
Consumers are getting increased access to retail cards during the holidays, mainly because stores offer discounts and other incentives for opening account while making a purchase. As we recently reported, consumers should use caution and carefully weigh any benefits before accepting these offers.
Gas prices drop, but are just getting back to normal
Speculators' hopes that OPEC can reduce the oil glut are fading11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers have seen gasoline prices drop sharply in the last week, falling more in some states than in others. But in point of fact, prices are just gettin...
Consumers have seen gasoline prices drop sharply in the last week, falling more in some states than in others. But in point of fact, prices are just getting back to normal after speculation in the futures market added upward pressure in the two previous months.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of gasoline is $2.16 a gallon after falling over the last 10 days. That's down a nickel from a week ago and nearly a dime lower than a month ago. But it is exactly in line with last year's national average.
“The abundance of crude oil in the global market is contributing to lower prices, and as a result, retail averages are the same price as compared to one year ago,” AAA said on its website.
Stong dollar helping motorists
Another factor is at play here as well. The U.S. dollar has strengthened significantly since Donald Trump's election a week ago and, since oil is priced in dollars, oil prices have begun to fall even more.
They were moving in the other direction in September and October as speculators bet that OPEC members, which are scheduled to meet at the end of this month, would agree to cap production, to drive up oil prices. Wall Street optimism for such an agreement is fading, and the latest data shows OPEC has increased production in recent weeks.
There also tends to be less demand for gasoline during the month of November, and with refinery maintenance mostly completed, the outlook is brightening for falling fuel prices into the end of the year.
In some states, the price at the pump is absolutely in a free-fall. In the last week, Indiana saw its statewide average plunge 14 cents a gallon. It's down 12 cents in Ohio, 11 cents in Michigan, eight cents in Kentucky and Illinois, and seven cents in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The statewide average is below $2 in nine states, with the lowest prices in Missouri and Oklahoma, both of which are reporting an average price of $1.88 a gallon.
Gas station traffic paces October advance in retail sales
In fact, the increase was fairly broad-based11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Retailers enjoyed a good October following an even better September. The Commerce Department reports retail sales last month were up 0.8%, or $465.9 bil...
Retailers enjoyed a good October following an even better September.
The Commerce Department reports retail sales last month were up 0.8%, or $465.9 billion, and were 4.3% above the same month a year earlier.
In addition, the government revised it's September estimate to show a gain of 1.0% instead of the 0.6% advance initially reported.
Winners and losers
Most businesses saw sales increases last month, including gas stations (+2.2%), sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores (+1.3%), motor vehicle & parts dealers (+1.1%), and grocery stores (+0.7%).
Sales declines were suffered by furniture & home furnishing stores (-0.9%), department stores (-0.7%), and restaurants & bars (-0.7%).
Analysts at Briefing.com say the strong report indicates consumers are willing to spend more freely on discretionary items and that both the October and September numbers should help bolster fourth quarter GDP forecasts.
The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.
Weight Watchers recalls Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Weight Watchers is recalling approximately 100,000 cases of Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae frozen desserts.The products...
Weight Watchers is recalling approximately 100,000 cases of Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae frozen desserts.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no consumer complaints or reports of illness to date.
The following products are being recalled:
The products were distributed to retailers throughout the U.S.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not eat them, but return them to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund.
Consumers with questions may call 1-866-572-3805,. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET).
Cedar Crest Specialties recalls various ice cream flavors
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Cedar Crest Specialties is recalling the following Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Monster Cookie and Pirate's Bounty ice cream flavors: Prod...
Cedar Crest Specialties is recalling the following Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Monster Cookie and Pirate's Bounty ice cream flavors:
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date related to this recall.
The recalled products were distributed in retail stores throughout the Midwest.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may call 1-888-628-0730, Monday-Friday between 8AM and 4PM (CT).
Hammerhead Off-Road recalls fun-karts
The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hammerhead Off-Road of Flower Mound, Texas, is recalling about 9,900 fun-karts.The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out, posing a fire ha...
Hammerhead Off-Road of Flower Mound, Texas, is recalling about 9,900 fun-karts.
The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out, posing a fire hazard.
No incidents or injuries are reported.
This recall involves model year 2009 through 2015 Hammerhead Off-Road GL 150, GTS 150 and GTS Platinum fun-karts.
The recalled fun-karts have two seats and a rear cargo rack and were sold in red, black, white, orange, blue and green. “GTS” is printed on the side cage and the hood of the GTS models and “Hammerhead” is printed on the hood of the GL models.
Serial numbers are printed on the cross bar behind the seats.
The fun-karts, manufactured in China, were sold at Hammerhead Off-Road dealers nationwide from August 2009, through July 2016, for between $2,100 and $2,900.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled fun-karts and contact Hammerhead Off-Road to schedule a free replacement of the fuel tank. The firm is contacting all known purchasers directly.
Consumers may contact Hammerhead Off-Road toll-free at 844-298-6528 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at email@example.com or online at www.hammerheadoffroad.com and click on “Latest News” for more information.
Schnuck Markets recalls ready-to-eat chicken breast products
The products may be undercooked resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens11/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Schnuck Markets of O’Fallon, Mo., is recalling approximately 62 pounds of ready-to-eat grilled chicken products.The products may be undercooked resulti...
Schnuck Markets of O’Fallon, Mo., is recalling approximately 62 pounds of ready-to-eat grilled chicken products.
The products may be undercooked resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse health effects due to consumption of these products.
The following items, produced and packaged on November 8, 2016, are being recalled:
- Ready-to-eat grilled chicken containing the label of “Butter Garlic Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast” with a sell date of November 13, 2016.
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 13562” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to 26 Schnuck retail locations in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Schnuck Consumer Affairs Hotline, at (314) 994-4400.
Suit accuses Dodge and Cummins Inc. of a 'deeply entrenched scheme'11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A class action lawsuit charges that FCA (Chrysler) and diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. deceived consumers and regulators by concealing the high lev...
Consumers have the right to see the damaging information11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It can be one of life's more unpleasant circumstances. You get ready to purchase a car, a big screen TV, or other major purchase requiring credit, and the...
More than 400 million adult website accounts may have been compromised11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
People who have had accounts on a number of adult websites over the last 20 years could be in for a bit of an embarrassment.LeakedSource.com reports th...
Consuming too much meat and protein could lead to heart failure in women over 50, researchers say11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Protein is an important staple of any diet. It helps maintain your body by building and repairing muscle, and it is an essential element for healthy bones,...
Extended periods of time in a car seat could increase an infant's risk of suffocation11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Parents come armed with the instinct to keep their little one safe at all costs. It is this instinct which leads many new parents to make sure they’re as u...
Safety regulators finally complete rule requiring electric cars to speak up11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Some cars are too noisy, which can be a nuisance. But some cars are too quiet and they can be dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. That's why federal s...
Their algorithm works by singling out fake reviews to help restore consumer confidence11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this month, we reported how fake apps in Apple’s app store were becoming a bigger problem as the holiday shopping season gets underway. This type o...
Experts estimate that younger consumers will spend $81 on their pets over the holidays11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Pets belonging to Millennials may be in for a real treat (or several) this holiday season. PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook predicts Millennials will be more gen...
The class action settlement could cost the company up to $3.4 billion11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Toyota will pay up to $3.4 billion to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged its pickup truck and SUV frames were prone to rust because they received i...
American Apparel bankrupt, again
It is selling most of its assets to Gildan Activewear11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
American Apparel is bankrupt again, less than a year after it emerged from an earlier bankruptcy...
American Apparel is bankrupt again, less than a year after it emerged from an earlier bankruptcy filing. Ths Los Angeles clothing manufacturer says it is selling $66 million worth of intellectual property and other assets to Gildan Activewear.
Gildan owns and operates vertically-integrated, large-scale manufacturing facilities which are primarily located in Central America, the Caribbean Basin, North America, and Bangladesh.
The company has been trying to deal with shrinking sales and other issues since Dov Charney, the company’s founder and former CEO, was ousted in December 2014 over allegations of misconduct, including sexual harrassment.
American Apparel has promoted itself as an example of a successful manufacturing operation in an era when most manufacturing has moved overseas. It has been a heavy supporter of immigration, noting that many of its California employees are immigrants.
“We are confident that this decision is the best strategic move forward, in order to preserve the legacy of the American Apparel brand,” Bradley Scher, chairman of American Apparel’s board of directors, said in a letter to employees, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
For over a decade, American Apparel was strictly a wholesaler, providing blank T-shirts to retailers across the country. The company went retail in 2003, and opened a jaw-dropping 260 locations worldwide, a decision that has contributed to its financial woes ever since.
Tasteful design and eye-catching ads that played up the "Made in USA" angle, made AA an attractive alternative to big-name retailers like the Gap and Banana Republic, especially for young shoppers.
But restive investors and sluggish sales, combined with Charney's issues, combined to drag down the company's stock price and hamper its future prospects.
When your offer should be precise, and when it shouldn't
Knowing when to use the right negotiating tactic pays off, researcher says11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When David Loschelder was a graduate student in Germany, he needed to rent a bicycle for a month and thus, had to negotiate with the bicycle's owner.He...
When David Loschelder was a graduate student in Germany, he needed to rent a bicycle for a month and thus, had to negotiate with the bicycle's owner.
He was surprised when the owner said the cost of the four weeks would be a very precise number of euros – 34.50. Not 30, and not 35.
"As a consequence of this precision, I felt my counterpart was overly competent and I didn't even negotiate for a single cent," Loschelder said.
After that, Loschelder said he became interested in the effects of very precise prices when it came to negotiations. Was it always effective to be precise, as the bicycle owner was? That was the beginning of a research project to find out.
Doesn't always work
"Our research shows that more precise opening prices can yield you a significant negotiation advantage, but you have to know whom you're negotiating with," Loschelder said. "With amateurs, this number should be very precise; with experts, however, negotiators should either choose a moderate level of precision or back up their highly precise number with a compelling reason."
In other words, making an extremely precise offer for a car or a house may hurt your chances of success if you're negotiating with a pro – a car dealer or a real estate agent.
But Loschelder says his research shows that a precise offer – for example, $9,572.36 or $384,961.42 - are more effective with novice negotiators. These people, he says, are more likely to view a very precise bid as a sign of competence.
Seeing through the tactic
Experts, he says, tend to see through this tactic. However, Loschelder says he found experts are more likely to be persuaded by what he called a “moderately precise bid – $9,500 for example.
"Interestingly, amateurs seem to think: 'Oh, this number is so precise, my opponent must have thought quite a bit about a fair price. He or she must be really competent,'" Loschelder said. "In contrast, experts perceive this as too-precise a price and denigrate their opponent's competence."
You also have to understand what's negotiable. The supermarket check out clerk isn't going to negotiate the price of a dozen eggs. But a car dealer and real estate broker will definitely deal on the price of a car or home. When dealing with these professionals, Loschelder suggests being only moderately precise.
However, when buying something at a yard sale or on eBay, being extremely precise just might work in your favor.
Samsung moves into automotive technology with purchase of Harman
The $8 billion cash purchase makes Samsung a major player in automotive electronics11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Samsung, badly burned by a rash of fires in its smartphones and appliances, is buying audio equipment manufacturer Harman International, a major supplier t...
Samsung, badly burned by a rash of fires in its smartphones and appliances, is buying audio equipment manufacturer Harman International, a major supplier to carmakers.
The $8 billion cash deal is Samsung's biggest acquisition ever and makes it a major player in the fast-growing world of automotive technoogy.
Harman, founded in 1953, made its name manufacturing high-end Harman Kardon hi-fi gear, as it was then known. It has steadily expanded into audio equipment and other technology for cars and now has major contracts with General Motors and FCA.
Not long ago, cars had little more than a radio while today they are morphing into rolling computer labs, with high-end audio, GPS, smartphones, and built-in Wi-Fi. As cars become increasingly autonomous, the role of electronics will only increase, and Samsung is obviously determined to get a big part of that market.
Harman last year shelled out $780 million to buy Symphony Teleca, a Silicon Valley company that makes software and components for connected cars.
“The vehicle of tomorrow will be transformed by smart technology and connectivity in the same way that simple feature phones have become sophisticated smart devices over the past decade,” said Young Sohn, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Samsung Electronics. “We see substantial long-term growth opportunities in the auto technology market as demand for Samsung’s specialized electronic components and solutions continues to grow."
HARMAN’s leading brands include JBL, Harman Kardon, Mark Levinson, AKG, Lexicon, Infinity, and Revel. It licenses the Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen brands for automotive products.
Why many home buyers regret their choice of lender
In a J.D. Power survey, 21% expressed buyer's remorse11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Getting through the home mortgage approval process is a lot trickier than it once was, and it turns out a large number of homebuyers who successfully make...
Getting through the home mortgage approval process is a lot trickier than it once was, and it turns out a large number of homebuyers who successfully make it end up with a case of buyer's remorse.
They don't regret the home purchase so much as the selection of the mortgage to pay for it.
That's the chief takeaway from the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, which found 21% of customers who bought a home regret their choice of lender, and 27% of first-time home buyers regret their choice.
There appear to be two reasons. For many consumers, the regret stems from a poor experience with the lender. This can be caused by more problems than expected, broken promises, and poor communication.
Felt lender pressure
The second reason for dissatisfaction has to do with price. Even though they got multiple quotes and appeared to do their homework, this group of new homeowners regrets picking their lender. Of the largest complaints, 72% of those regretting their lender choice said they felt pressured to pick a particular mortgage product that, in hindsight, was not a good fit.
They said in many cases they went with a particular lender because it had the lowest rates, or they had done business with it in the past.
“This ‘happy buyer’s remorse’ is in part due to customers feeling that circumstances out of their control drove them to a particular choice and that options weren’t totally clear,” said Craig Martin, director of the mortgage practice at J.D. Power.
Had to jump through hoops
The problem, says Martin, is many of these consumers are happy with their interest rate, but feel like they had to jump through a long series of hoops to finally get the loan approved. In the end, these consumers might not fully understand exactly what they got. What lenders have to worry about, he says, is these consumers may be happy when they sign the loan papers, but not later on.
Lenders, of course, are under new pressure since the financial crisis, having to implement tougher underwriting requirements. These requirements have had the effect of prolonging the process, no doubt creating negative feelings along the way.
Quicken Loans ranked highest
The J.D. Power survey found Quicken Loans ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the loan approval process. It's followed by CitiMortgage and Ditech Financial.
The report's authors say consumers can improve their chances of being happy with their loan by selecting a lender and a mortgage product before they decide on a home. The researchers found consumers who did that were significantly more satisfied with the result.
Rising construction costs are a major factor11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Housing affordability was down slightly in the third quarter as rising home prices offset a dip in mortgage interest rates.According to the National As...
Chocolate Shoppe expands ice cream recall
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company of Madison, Wis, is expanding it's earlier recall of select ice cream products.The products were made with a chocola...
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company of Madison, Wis, is expanding it's earlier recall of select ice cream products.
The products were made with a chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The following products are being recalled:
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. – 3-Gallon Cartons
- Cookie Dough (code date 10/15/17, 10/21/17, 11/1/17 & 11/8/17),
- Heaps of Love (code date 10/20/17, 10/28/17 & 11/8/17),
- Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (code date 10/9/17, 10/18/17 & 11/1/17),
- Sticks & Stones (code date 10/26/17).
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. – Pints
- Cookie Dough (code date 10/21/17).
The Baked Bear brand – 3-Gallon Cartons
- The Baked Bear brand Cookie Dough (code date 10/13/17, 10/15/17, 10/21/17).
The recalled products were distributed to various ice cream shops, online outlets and limited grocery stores in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should destroy or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-466-8043 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For decades, he fought for safer cars and tighter regulation11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Auto safety crusader Clarence Ditlow has died. For decades, he headed the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, a group that exposed some of the most da...
Exploring local markets can be one of the most rewarding parts of travel11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
Cours Saleya Market, Nice, FranceOn my first visit to Amsterdam, I took the train to Haarlem to see the Frans Hals Museum. As I exited the station, I...
California's governor warns the state will not back down11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The Trump Administration is still in its infancy, but that's not stopping automakers from proposing that it go easy on...
One study’s findings could hold the key to avoiding future pandemics11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
You might be one of those people who gets a flu shot every year and carefully navigates through flu season, but that isn’t always a guarantee that you’ll s...
Safety measures to take if your infant is at high-risk for peanut allergy11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
If you’re a recent parent, you may be wondering how and when to introduce your little one to food containing peanuts. For guidance, parents of infants can...
Consumers battered by financial crisis getting their credit back
It's been seven years since many of these people lost their homes to foreclosure11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It takes seven years for a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy to come off a consumer's credit report.Since the height of the foreclosure tsunami wa...
It takes seven years for a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy to come off a consumer's credit report.
Since the height of the foreclosure tsunami was 2009, a lot of former homeowners, whose credit has been practically non-existent since then, are getting back on their financial feet.
According to an analysis by Experian, one of the three credit agencies, 2.5 million consumers will see their credit standing improve sharply between last June and next June. Of these, the credit agency says 68% are scoring at near-prime or higher credit levels.
Back in the credit market
It means that millions of consumers, largely shut out of the credit market since 2009, will be able to take out loans again. Those who want to buy a home again will most likely qualify for a mortgage, putting even more pressure on extremely tight inventory levels around the country.
Experian also reports that formerly foreclosed or bankrupt borrowers who have already shed those events from the credit reports have returned to the credit markets in large numbers and, by and large, are showing good financial behavior.
The Experian analysis shows 29% of consumers who sold short between 2007 and 2010 have opened a new mortgage, with a delinquency rate that is a full percentage point below the national average.
"With millions of borrowers potentially coming back into the housing market, the trends that we're seeing are promising for both the mortgage seeker and the lender," said Michele Raneri, vice president of analytics and new business development at Experian.
Raneri predicts that in the years ahead, these so-called “boomerang borrowers” will be a critical segment of the real-estate market, and perhaps could propel prices still higher.
The Experian report shows that homeowners who had a foreclosure in the past but now have qualified for a mortgage have an average credit score of 680, more than 20% higher than their score at the time of foreclosure.
The record is even better for consumers who sold short. Those who have now qualified for a new mortgage have an average credit score of 706, up 16.5% from when they were forced to sell.
In an effort to compete with Amazon, PetSmart will offer expanded shipping options on its site11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Consumers have become less fond of going out and buying goods from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers over the years. Even Black Friday doesn’t hold th...
Smoking linked to 40% of U.S. cancer diagnoses
Meanwhile, the number of smokers continues to fall11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report that linked cigarette smoking to cancer, we have known of tobacco's corrosive effects on health.But just how co...
Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report that linked cigarette smoking to cancer, we have known of tobacco's corrosive effects on health.
But just how corrosive is it? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests as many as 40% of all cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. may have a tobacco link.
While tobacco use is most closely associated with lung cancer, the reports cites evidence that it also causes cancers of the mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon, and rectum, and a type of leukemia, known as acute myeloid leukemia.
In short, the report's authors conclude that avoiding tobacco use is the best way to prevent the disease, which affected about 660,000 people in the U.S. from 2009 to 2013, killing more than half.
Another way of looking at it, since 1990 about 1.3 million cancer deaths linked to tobacco have been avoided because either people quit smoking or never started in the first place. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that should just be a start.
"There are more than 36 million smokers in the U.S.," Frieden said. "Sadly, nearly half could die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, including six million from cancer, unless we implement the programs that will help smokers quit."
But progress has been coming faster in recent years. In a separate CDC report, health officials note that cigarette smoking among U.S. adults has dropped more than 20% from 2005. From 2014 to 2015, there was a 1.7% drop, resulting in the lowest number of adult smokers since the government began collecting data in 1965.
Cigarette smoking surged in the years after World War II, some say encouraged by the fact that every GI's rations included a pack of cigarettes. As viewers of the hit series “Mad Men” saw, cigarettes were a ubiquitous part of American life in the 1960s. In 1965, the CDC estimates more than 42% of Americans were smoking.
Currently, the CDC estimates 16.8% of U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, leading to more than $300 billion in annual health care costs.
But Clinton voters contemplating Canada may not find a welcome mat11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
At the end of October, as the bitter presidential race was entering its final days, we speculated that many on the losing side, whichever it turned out to...
Nearly three million consumers were affected11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Hackers were able to break into servers operated by Adobe Systems and get access to the personal information of nearly three million consumers in 2013....
What to consider before flying and what to look for in a hotel11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Will your pet be traveling with you to your Thanksgiving Day destination? If so, you might already be thinking of ways to ensure their safety throughout th...
Agave Dream recalls several flavors of ice creams
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Agave Dream is recalling all vanilla, chocolate, cappuccino, chocolate chip and lavender ice creams packaged in pint-sized containers.The products may...
Agave Dream is recalling all vanilla, chocolate, cappuccino, chocolate chip and lavender ice creams packaged in pint-sized containers.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, manufactured and packaged in a facility owned by a contract manufacturer, Dr. Bob’s of Upland, LLC, are being recalled:
The recalled products were distributed across the U.S. through retail stores receiving them from KeHE Romeoville & Dallas warehouses, DPI NW, Americold, IWI Franklin, Indiana warehouse, Jakes Finer Foods, Houston Texas, Haddon House Richburg, South Carolina & Medford, New Jersey, Grocery Outlet California, UNFI- Auburn, Washington, Dallas, Texas, and Ridgefield, Washington.
What to do
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 866-993-4438, Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm (PST) or by email at email@example.com.
ISB Food Group recalls two varieties of L.A.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/11/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
ISB Food Group is recalling L.A. Creamery Honeycomb ice cream and L.A. Creamery Salted Caramel ice cream.The items were produced in a co-packing facili...
ISB Food Group is recalling L.A. Creamery Honeycomb ice cream and L.A. Creamery Salted Caramel ice cream.
The items were produced in a co-packing facility that has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The recalled products, with expiration dates of March 18, 2017, were distributed from March – October 2016, in California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts.
The product is packaged in paper 14-oz. ice cream containers with the L.A. Creamery brand name, Salted Caramel flavor and Honeycomb flavors, specifically stamped on the bottom of the container.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products may contact the company for a full refund or with any questions at (818) 405-0022, extension 103, Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 3:00 pm (PT)
Hyundai's spokesman says that drivers are accidentally stepping on the gas pedal.11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
The car speeds through a city street, not slowing down for a line of vehicles stopped ahead at an upcoming light. Instead it swerves into the one empty lan...
Republicans to lower drug costs? Pharma companies aren't convinced11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
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There are no clear answers about what will happen to Marketplace coverage this January11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
One week ago on the campaign trail, President Elect-Donald Trump repeated his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, adding: “No one ever read …...
Trump's 'drain-the-swamp' promise takes a back seat to reality
Washington is full of lobbyists and influence-peddlers. Good thing too11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a lot of promises during his campaign, one of the most notable being his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D....
President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a lot of promises during his campaign, one of the most notable being his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., a pledge based on the popular misconception that the nation's capital is located on the site of a former swamp.
In fact, the District of Columbia may be marshy, but it was never technically a swamp. And it's not a swamp today either -- it's more like a beehive that has been whacked with a big stick. The place, in a word, is buzzing.
It's been eight years since there was a change in administrations and a change in ruling party to boot. Leaving politics aside for a moment, this is a bonanza for Realtors who will soon have hundreds of upscale homes to list as dejected Democrats leave town and hundreds of jubilant incoming Republicans replace them.
(Realtors prefer for the successful candidate to be from New York, California, or some other high cost-of-living state; they tend to be willing and able to spend more on housing. The first and, as it turns out last, Clinton Administration was not popular with the housing trade).
But forget Realtors, the business of Washington is lobbying. There are all kinds of lobbyists. Some represent charitable causes and what used to be called "do-gooder" groups, but the high-powered ones represent business interests. Although they tend to be vilified by candidates and everyone else, lobbyists are necessary since, without them, businesses and institutions would soon be hopelessly hamstrung by regulations, at least in theory.
In their simplest form, lobbyists provide information to lawmakers, helping them understand what effect a given piece of legislation would have on a specific industry. When necessary, gentle persuasion may be employed. (Full disclosure: I worked for several years with what we call "government affairs firms" in D.C. but have no current ties with any special interest groups or lobbying firms).
A lengthy list
Given all this, it was not surprising today when I came across a list of the lobbyists who were heading up various elements of the Trump transition team. There are lobbyists representing Altria, Coca-Cola, General Elecric, Dow Chemical, and Duke Energy, among many others, in charge of finding top appointees for Homeland Security, Labor, Energy, Interior, Agriculture, Defense, and the list goes on.
Shocking? Not really. Since top Obama appointees will soon turn in their resignations and leave, new appointees must be identified, vetted, grilled, and examined.
It's a lengthy process and one that must be carried out largely by the President-Elect's staff. He is not yet the President, after all, and does not command the full resources of the executive branch, so it's necessary to find volunteers who know the territory, are accustomed to working long hours, and looking out for the arcane details that will bite you if you don't see them coming -- lobbyists, in other words.
Many lobbyists are former government officials who worked on the Hill or in one of the agencies. Their bosses tend to be former officeholders -- Senators and Representatives who are living the heavenly (and lucrative) afterlife that follows a few terms in office.
In Trump's case, he is especially dependent on Washington insiders. He, after all, is a businessman, not a politician. He has never held elective office, doesn't have many close contacts in D.C., and his swamp-draining campaign promises (and those leaked videotapes) basically made him a pariah in the political world.
A jarring transition
"He couldn't even staff the campaign because no one wanted to be associated with him," said one Trump aide quoted in a Politico newsletter. "It's different now but there's going to have to be a lot of forgive and forget."
Working in Trump's favor -- lobbying firms are scrambling to demonstrate to their clients that they wield influence with the incoming Trumpians and are desperate to volunteer to help the transition move smoothly.
The transition from Political Outsider to President-Elect can be jarring. One minute you're railing against special interests, greedy capitalists, and featherbedding bureaucrats. The next, you're the biggest insider of all, your desk the one where the buck stops.
Love him or hate him, Trump faces a difficult few months. He won't have time to be draining any swamps. And while struggling to assemble his team, Trump will know that across town, plans are being made by rivals already hard at work on the 2018 election. His oversights today will be the political fodder of tomorrow's campaigns.
Infrastructure upgrades, airline protectionism may be high on the new administration's agenda11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Every new administration says it will get America moving again. The incoming Trump Administration may mean it literally -- transportation and "infrastructu...
Brain and spine implants produce near miracle in monkeys11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The complex circuitry connecting the brain to important muscles in the body may hold the key to helping paralyzed patients get up and walk.Like, gettin...
Releases of the Nintendo Switch and NES Classic Edition should keep fans happy, though11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
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SyncUP is free for customers who sign up for a 24-month financing agreement11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
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Black Friday sales begin today for Walmart
Users of the company's app can take advantage of several deals11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product...
For an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product and rake in consumer dollars, and now one company has officially kicked off its Black Friday sales.
Walmart shoppers who use the company’s app can start indulging in sales today on a variety of items, including electronic devices like an Acer laptop and a 65-inch Hitachi 4K Ultra HDTV. The deals will continue all the way through the actual Black Friday event on November 25, and may even last longer into the holiday shopping season.
Starting up its sales early could be viewed by some to be a risky move; recent reports indicate that consumers have become guarded when it comes to Black Friday, with many saying that they’ll be avoiding the hassle by doing more shopping online.
Consumers who do choose to shop in stores say that they’re often disappointed by hyped up deals that fall short of expectations because product inventory runs out so fast. However, Walmart says that won’t be a problem this year. The company says that it is stocking up on 1.5 million TV’s, 2 million tablets and computers, and 3 million video games that will be purchasable online and at stores.
“I don’t expect to see any kind of decline [on] Black Friday. . . traffic continues to grow in the stores while we continue to grow our online business,” said Walmart’s chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies.
Here's a sneak peek at Black Friday ad slicks
Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart have all tipped their hands11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
For consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has p...
For consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has published leaked Black Friday ad slicks from five major retailers, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart.
According to the ad for Best Buy, the electronics retailer will open at 5:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and offer a Samsung 55-inch 2160p 4K HD smart TV for $479.99, marked down by $320. A Toshiba 49-inch 2160p set will go for $199.99.
The Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch touchscreen laptop will have a sale price of $349.99, $150 lower than its regular price. The seven-inch, 8GB Kindle Fire has a sale price of $33.33. You can save $125 on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Walmart will open at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. The Walmart ad shows the iPhone 5 on Straight Talk Wireless selling for $99. A Philips 55-inch 4K LED TV has been marked down to $298.
For gamers, the Playstation 4 Slim 500GB bundle is $249, and includes a $30 gift card. The Samsung 4K Blue-ray disc player is $39.
The ad for Target's Black Friday Preview Sale, starting Thanksgiving Day, promotes a Fitbit Charge HR for $89.95, marked down from $129.95.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Target is offering the Jetson V6 hoverboard with Bluetooth speakers for $284.99. In the toy department, the Badgor Basket wooden doll house, with 15-piece furniture set, goes for $69.
Sears will open at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Its ad touts a Kenmore washer-dryer combo for $279.99 each and a 25.6 cubic inch, two-door stainless steel refrigerator for $999.
The Craftsman 41-inch, 12-drawer ball bearing tool chest is marked down to $349.98. A Serta Posturepedic queen sized mattress and box spring set has been marked down to $349.
Kmart will open at 7:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and its ad shows a Bell & Howell dashcam with 8 GB micro SD card for $15. It's 10-inch Frozen or Spiderman bike, regularly $49.99, has been marked down to $19.
Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are lining up against it11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In a remarkable change in sentiment, Wall Street has rallied to a record high in the two days since Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential electio...
Blacks, Hispanics still lag in conventional mortgage approval
But Zillow reports both groups are closing the gap11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Housing data collected by the federal government shows African American and Hispanic borrowers still have a harder time qualifying for a conventional mortg...
Housing data collected by the federal government shows African American and Hispanic borrowers still have a harder time qualifying for a conventional mortgage than other races.
The statistics gathered under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) show improvements in mortgage access for these groups, but disparities persist.
For example, 22.4% of black applicants were denied in 2015 when they applied for a conventional mortgage. But that's an improvement from five years earlier, when the denial rate was 30.5%.
Among Hispanic mortgage applicants, 17.3% were turned down when they applied for a conventional mortgage last year, but that was also a significant improvement over 2010's 25% decline rate.
Typically, 10% of all applicants are turned down
Overall, only 10.4% of all conventional mortgage borrowers were turned down last year.
"Even though conditions have improved over the past few years, getting approved for a mortgage is still a significant barrier for some would-be buyers," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Owning a home is an important way for the middle class to build personal wealth. It's encouraging to see more black and Hispanic borrowers getting approved for mortgages, but there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made."
It should be noted that the denial rate only applies to conventional mortgages, which can carry some advantages but usually require larger down payments and stronger credit profiles.
FHA a popular alternative
For consumers who don't qualify for a conventional mortgage, a government-backed FHA mortgage is a popular alternative. To qualify for an FHA mortgage, an applicant needs only a credit score of 580 and a 3.5% down payment.
There can be slightly higher interest rates associated with these loans, however. Also, the homeowner is required to continue to pay for mortgage insurance over the life of the loan, no matter how much equity he or she eventually gains in the property.
Zillow raises a concern that black and Hispanic borrowers are not getting access to the conventional loan market at the same rate as white and Asian applicants. The real estate website says the problem appears to be so entrenched that last week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced programs to improve access to credit for these groups.
Economy: Completed foreclosures, jobless claims down
Serious mortgage delinquencies were lower as well11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Another month of declines in both completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory.Property information provider CoreLogic repo...
Another month of declines in both completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory.
Property information provider CoreLogic reports completed foreclosures declined by 7.0% in September from the same time a year ago, while the foreclosure inventory plunged 31.1%.
The number of completed foreclosures nationwide was down year-over-year by 3,000 -- to 36,000 in September 2016, representing a drop of 69.7% from the peak of 118,222 in September 2010.
The foreclosure inventory represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process and completed foreclosures reflect the total number of homes lost to foreclosure.
Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.4 million completed foreclosures nationally. Since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.5 million homes lost to foreclosure.
As of September, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 340,000, or 0.9%, of all homes with a mortgage, versus 493,000 homes, or 1.3%, the year before.
The number of mortgages in serious delinquency -- 90 days or more past due including loans in foreclosure or REO -- plummeted 24.8% from September 2015 to September 2016, with 1 million mortgages, or 2.6%, in serious delinquency. That's the lowest level since August 2007. Decreases were seen in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
“This improvement is continued evidence of the recovery in the housing market,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, “especially given that the decreases were fairly uniform in most cities across the country.”
- On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures increased by 5.2% to 36,000 in September from the 34,000 reported for August. As a basis of comparison, before the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.
- The September foreclosure inventory was down 3.1% compared with August 2016.
- The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in September were Florida (53,000), Texas (27,000), Michigan (24,000), Ohio (23,000), and Georgia (21,000).These five states accounted for 36% of completed foreclosures nationally.
- Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in September: the District of Columbia (186), North Dakota (338), West Virginia (447), Alaska (643), and Montana (701).
- Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory rate in September: New Jersey (3.0%), New York (2.7%), Maine (1.8%), Hawaii (1.8%), and the District of Columbia (1.6%).
- The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate in September 2016 were Colorado (0.3%), Minnesota (0.3%), Arizona , Michigan, and Utah (all at 0.3%).
The decline last week in first-time applications for state unemployment benefits more than wiped out the increase posted the previous week.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims were down by 11,000 in the week ending November 5 to a seasonally adjusted 254,000.
It's now been 88 straight weeks that claims have been below 300,000 the longest streak since 1970.
The four-week moving average inched up 1,750 from a week earlier to 259,750. This measure is seen as a better gauge of the labor market as it lacks the volatility seen in the weekly headcount.
The complete report may be found on the DOL website.
Flavor Trade expands recall of beef products
The products did not undergo federal inspection11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is expanding its original recall of beef jerky products that were produced without undergoing federal inspection and used...
Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is expanding its original recall of beef jerky products that were produced without undergoing federal inspection and used the USDA mark of inspection without authorization.
The original recall included 113 pounds of product. This expansion includes an additional 628 pounds of product for a total of approximately 741 pounds.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following items, produced on May 18, June 10, August 30, September 27-28, October 25-26, 2016, are being recalled:
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Wheat,” which may or may not include package code 614261.
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Porter,” which may or may not include package code 619290.
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “E3 Meat Co. Paleo Beef Jerky Sweet.”
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “E3 Meat Co. Paleo Beef Jerky Spicy.”
The recalled products may or may not incorrectly bear a USDA mark of inspection, which would include establishment number “EST. 48135”. They were shipped to retail locations in Kansas and Missouri.
What to do
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Shannon Kimball at (816) 531-2288.
Volvo recalls vehicles with seat belt buckle issue
The front passenger seat belt buckle may separate from the seat belt bracket11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Volvo Car USA is recalling 74,027 model year 2016-2017 XC90, S90, XC60, V60 Cross Country, V60, S60 Cross Country, S60, and S60 Inscription vehicles manufa...
Volvo Car USA is recalling 74,027 model year 2016-2017 XC90, S90, XC60, V60 Cross Country, V60, S60 Cross Country, S60, and S60 Inscription vehicles manufactured February 16, 2015, to August 22, 2016.
The front passenger seat belt buckle attaching stud may loosen, allowing the buckle to separate from the seat belt bracket. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages" and number 209, "Seat Belt Assemblies."
If the seat belt buckle separates from the bracket, the front seat passenger may not be restrained adequately in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front passenger seat belt buckle stud, replacing the seat belt buckle as needed, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.
Owners may contact Volvo customer service at 1-800-458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R89708.
Klement's Sausage Company recalls beef and sausage products
The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials11/10/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Klement’s Sausage Company of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 1,689 pounds of beef and pork products that may be contaminated with extraneous ma...
Klement’s Sausage Company of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 1,689 pounds of beef and pork products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials.
The company has received one report of an oral injury associated with consumption of these products.
The following ready to eat beef and pork snack stick items, produced on May 13, 2016, are being recalled:
- 1-oz. plastic packages containing 2 pieces of “KLEMENT’S ORIGINAL SNACK STICKS NATURALLY HARDWOOD SMOKED NO MSG ADDED GLUTEN FREE” with a sell by date of 11-16-17 and case code of 3262.
The recalled products bearing establishment number “EST. 2426B” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to vending distributors in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
What to do
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Becca Herrmann at (414)-744-2330, EXT. 273.
What kind of change will the 'change candidate' bring?11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When the shock of Tuesday's stunning election results begins to wear off, consumers may start to wonder what a Trump administration might mean for their po...
Trump brand saved by election win
Damage to the brand has evaporated with Trump's upset victory11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
In the depths of the presidential campaign, marketing analysts said that Trump the candidate was doing a lot of damage to Trump the brand and that Donald T...
In the depths of the presidential campaign, marketing analysts said that Trump the candidate was doing a lot of damage to Trump the brand and that Donald Trump's hotels, golf clubs, neckties, and other consumer goods were feeling the heat.
But now that it's the morning after, things are looking a little different. A post-Election Day, overnight national survey conducted by Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, revealed that in each of the seven categories Brand Keys has been tracking, the Trump brand has rebounded to levels seen just prior to the April 2015 announcement of his candidacy.
"Mr. Trump has been one of the most powerful brands we've ever tracked," said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. "You could add his name to anything from ties to buildings and the increased perceived value of the products fell into the 20% to 37% range. Which was very high, enviable by any category or brand standards, and what a brand is supposed to do. Now, I suppose, he literally qualifies as the most powerful brand in the world."
Blurred the lines
The Trump brand took a beating as campaign rhetoric heated up. Things worsened when a videotape was released that captured Trump making lewd comments about women.
"That didn't totally surprise or alarm us," Passikoff said. "In becoming a candidate Mr. Trump changed both the brand paradigm regarding consumer expectations and values surrounding the Trump brand and also blurred the traditional lines regarding where the Trump brand was expected to compete."
Passikoff said that human brands -- brands built around living people -- are powerful but can be damaged by the actions of their namesakes. They "don't usually come back as strong as they used to be" after an incident like the videotape release, he said.
"Think about what happened to Martha Stewart or Tiger Woods. Their brands survived but they never came back as strong as they were before the brand imploded after they went to jail or were forced to do a PGA Adultery walk-of-shame, for example," noted Passikoff.
"Human brands don't generally get a second chance to breathe real life back into their brands or rekindle the desire in the hearts and souls of consumers. Not at their former brand strength, added-value levels, at least," Passikoff said. "But apparently winning a presidential election is the exception that tests the rule."
According to 1,203 registered voters in the nine US Census regions, 100% of the categories where Brand Keys has tracked the Trump brand that had been negatively affected a month ago with the Access Hollywood tape disclosure have rebounded to pre-candidacy added-value brand levels.
Added-value related to the Trump brand -- that is, how much more a product or service is seen to better meet consumer expectations and be seen to be worth more monetarily with the Trump brand -- is back up significantly from a month ago in each of the seven categories where Brand Keys has historically tracked the Trump brand.
In some categories the added-value brand numbers are the highest Brand Keys has ever tracked for the brand.
Native American waterways are less likely to be monitored for pollution.11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
A crude oil pipeline slated to pass under the Missouri River and sacred Native American tribal land was one of the few hot-button political issues that nei...
The soothing sounds and slow-moving images in these films may be calming to pets, research suggests11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Election-related stress affected more than half of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association. If it’s true that our pets can pick up o...
Four cities approve tax on sugary soda
Anti-obesity advocates go four-for-four on election day11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you ask voters, putting an extra tax on sugar-sweetened soda seems like a good idea. It was on the ballot Tuesday in four cities, and voters in all four...
If you ask voters, putting an extra tax on sugar-sweetened soda seems like a good idea. It was on the ballot Tuesday in four cities, and voters in all four cities approved it.
Three of the cities are in California – actually the same region of California. The tax won approval in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany. In addition, voters in Boulder, Colo., approved the tax.
In a statement issued on election day, before any of the ballots were counted, Dr. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said just the presence of the ballot initiatives represents a new normal for “Big Soda.”
“The lessons learned by the community groups and advocates in these campaigns will be shared across the country and brought to bear in other cities and states,” Jacobson said. “The industry will continue to outspend because they can’t afford to lose. But they have already lost: The science base is growing stronger for sugar drinks’ causation of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth decay, and communities are acting.”
According to USA Today, consumer groups pushing for the soda tax spent just over $9 million to support their cause. Opponents, back in part by the beverage industry, spend $20 million. It was pretty much the same story in the other three municipalities.
The four cities are the first to approve a soda tax since Berkeley, Calif., took that step in 2014. In Tuesday's voting, Boulder added a two-cent tax to the cost of soda. The California cities each added a penny.
Will it have an effect? The World Health Organization (WHO) believes it will and recently urged cities around the world to enact taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. The organization said it believes adding to the cost of these products could help reduce health risks like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
“Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes. . . If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs).
The taxes approved in Tuesday's voting are projected to raise as much as $29 million between the four cities.
The new addition could be a direct challenge to other sites like LinkedIn11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Social media giant Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the company has progressively been trying to find more ways to keep users engaged in its...
Business interests try to read the Trump tea leaves
Trade restrictions, immigration policy, media regulations eyed on Wall Street and beyond11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Donald Trump's victory at the polls has business interests wishing they had a crystal ball that would tell them which of Trump's campaign promises he actua...
Donald Trump's victory at the polls has business interests wishing they had a crystal ball that would tell them which of Trump's campaign promises he actually intends to pursue vigorously.
Republican candidates are usually fervent supporters of free trade and opponents of unnecessary government regulation of business. But Trump is not your ordinary Republican, and it's not entirely clear what his approach will be.
Restricting international free trade and renegotating treaties like NAFTA -- as he has proposed -- could have an enormous impact on everything from advertising to bananas, while tighter immigration policies would hit the food and beverage industries hard, Advertising Age notes today.
It quotes analysts as saying that Corona and Modelo Especial beers would be at risk. If 1.5 million undocumented Mexican immigrants left the United States, the beer brands could suffer because, the analysts say, Mexican immigrants' per capita beer consumption is about twice that of the general population.
Telecom and media interests are also feeling some trepidation. Trump made no secret of his disdain for the news media and threatened to change libel laws to make it easier for candidates to sue press outlets.
Trump has also been outspoken in his opposition to further media consolidation and specifically mentioned AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner. He also said he would try to break up Comcast and NBC Universal.
"As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN," Mr. Trump said Oct. 22 as the deal was announced, "a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."
An AT&T executive said this morning that the company is looking forward to working with Trump and is optimistic the deal can be approved.
Broadband providers are also wondering how a Trump presidency will affect the Federal Communications Commission, which is implementing new rules to protect consumers' privacy on the Web.
In a letter to Trump organized by the National Association of Manufacturers, top executives from Boeing, Ford, and United Technologies, among others, urged Trump to take a "constructive" approach to business regulation.
“We hope President Trump is more nuanced than candidate Trump,” said Jake Parker, vice president of China operations of the U.S.-China Business Council, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Are your home's appliances ready to work overtime?11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Having a home filled with visitors can add to the joy of the season, but extra bodies can mean extra work for your house. While your guests are delighting...
Practices are out of compliance in 70% of episodes11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers' fascination with food has made The Food Network must-see TV for many an amateur chef.But while viewers may learn how to prepare a gourmet me...
Millennials are least likely to buckle up11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Cars on American highways are safer than they have ever been. Even so, there are more than 35,000 traffic fatalities each year.Safety advocates say the...
California, three other states legalize recreational use of the weed11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
As the smoke cleared from Tuesday's election, marijuana emerged the winner. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed measures making t...
Vaping in teens leads to heavier smoking patterns, study finds
Researchers link the habit with increased cigarette smoking, prompting health concerns11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise for teens across the U.S. Middle and high school students are glorifying habits like vaping, and many stil...
The popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise for teens across the U.S. Middle and high school students are glorifying habits like vaping, and many still believe that the products don’t pose much of an immediate threat to their health.
While different studies have disagreed over that fact, new findings from the University of Southern California suggest that the health of young users may be at serious risk in the short- and long-term. The reason, the authors say, is that e-cigarette use and vaping can be associated with an increased frequency of smoking and heavier smoking habits overall.
Heavier smoking patterns
Dr. Adam M. Leventhal and his colleagues came to their conclusions after analyzing surveys given to 10th grade students in ten public high schools in Los Angeles County between 2014 and 2015. Questions focused on the frequency and heaviness of e-cigarette and cigarette use, as well as vaping habits. A follow-up survey was given six months later to gauge any changes.
The analysis found that students that smoked or vaped at the time when they took the first survey were more likely to increase their e-cigarette smoking frequency by the time the second survey was taken. Similarly, the researchers found that adolescents who smoked cigarettes were more likely to increase their smoking frequency and heaviness if they also vaped; this was especially true for infrequent smokers.
The researchers believe these findings speak to the need for stronger tobacco control policies, though they admit that more research will need to be conducted to verify the results. The full study has been published in JAMA.
October retail hiring down from a year ago
However, other industries are adding workers11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ahhh...the best laid plans and all that.Even though many major retailers said they planned on expanding their workforces this Christmas shopping season...
Ahhh...the best laid plans and all that.
Even though many major retailers said they planned on expanding their workforces this Christmas shopping season, October employment gains have plunged 21% from a year ago to 154,600.
An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows that's the fewest job gains to kick off the holiday hiring season since 2012.
This year’s decline follows two consecutive years of record job gains in October. BLS data shows that retail employment grew by 194,800 in 2015, a record number of October job gains for the sector.
Not a harbinger
Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger points out, however, that record October job gains in 2015 did not lead to record retail hiring throughout the holiday season. In fact, overall holiday hiring declined.
“The shrinking number of jobs added during the holiday season does not necessarily mean that the retail industry is shrinking," said Challenger. “As of October, there were 15,994,000 Americans employed in this sector. That is up from 15,759,000 a year ago and represents the highest October employment level ever recorded by the BLS.”
What's going on
A few trends could be contributing to the fall off in holiday hiring. Challenger said stronger hiring throughout the year and advances in retail technology may mean that stores do not have to hire as many extra workers during the busy holiday shopping season. In addition, he said, “increased online shopping could be shifting the holiday job gains away from retailers toward warehousing, fulfillment, and transportation operations.”
In fact, holiday hiring plans announced by the likes of Amazon.com, UPS, and FedEx have grown significantly over the last five years, according to Challenger. Meanwhile, hiring announcements from retailers have remained relatively flat or declined.
Mortgage applications down for third straight week
Contract interest rates were mixed11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Another decline -- the third in a row -- for mortgage applications.The weekly mortgage applications survey conducted by the Mortgage Bankers Associatio...
Another decline -- the third in a row -- for mortgage applications.
The weekly mortgage applications survey conducted by the Mortgage Bankers Association shows applications were down 1.2% in the week ending November 4, 2016.
The Refinance Index plunged 3% to its lowest level since May, dragging the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 62.3% of total applications from 62.7% the week before.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 4.5% of total applications, the FHA share was up 11.6% from 11.1%, the VA share of total applications slipped to 12.3% from 12.4%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.7%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose two basis points -- from 3.75% to 3.77%, the highest level since June, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) went to 3.75%, its highest level since June 2016, from 3.74 percent, with points decreasing to 0.27 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA inched up two basis points to 3.61%, its highest level since June, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs dipped to 3.03% from 3.04%, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell five basis points to 2.92%, with points increasing to 0.47 from 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Country Home Products recalls leaf and lawn vacuums
The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Country Home Products of Vergennes, Vt., is recalling about 3,900 Pro leaf and lawn vacuums.The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover, po...
Country Home Products of Vergennes, Vt., is recalling about 3,900 Pro leaf and lawn vacuums.
The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.
The firm has received 20 reports of the vacuums becoming hot to the touch, melting or catching fire. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Premier, Pro and Pro-XL models of the tow-behind DR leaf and lawn vacuums manufactured by Country Home Products.
Recalled units have a serial number between LLV34601 and LLV39980. The leaf and lawn vacuums are towed behind a riding lawnmower to collect leaves and are tan and black in color with a set of two wheels on each side.
The DR logo with “Professional Power Done Right” and “leaf and lawn vacuum” are printed on the side of the vacuum. The serial number is located on the left side of the tow bar near the engine.
The vacuums, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Country Home Products catalog, website and authorized dealers nationwide, including Tractor Supply Company, from August 2014, through September 2015, for between $1,300 and $2,200.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled leaf and lawn vacuums and contact Country Home Products to receive a free repair kit that contains a replacement muffler and instructions for completing the repair.
Consumers unable to install the repair kit should contact the firm for information on authorized dealers who can install the free repair.
Country Home Products is contacting all purchasers directly.
Consumers may contact Country Home Products toll-free at 877-220-0691 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.DRPower.com and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.
MTR Sambar Powder recalled due to possible health risk
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella11/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
SHRI SHIVA Foods is recalling MTR Sambar Powder which may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been reported.The product, packed in 20...
SHRI SHIVA Foods is recalling MTR Sambar Powder which may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported.
The product, packed in 200-g plastic pouches under MTR Brand stamped with MFD.27.10.15 on the back, was sold from January 2016, to October 2016, thru one New York and one Ohio wholesaler.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company's consumer affairs office at 347-581-7931, Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm (EST).
Regulators in California have reportedly found a second defeat device on some Audi models11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It looks like VW isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to its connection with defeat devices. Forbes reports that regulators from the California Air Res...
The captain and other crew members were out drinking until the wee hours, suit alleges11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A flight attendant has filed a lawsuit against Alaska Airlines claiming she was effectively terminated for reporting that the pilot and other crew members...
The company apologizes for its smartphone problems in newspaper ads11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Sometimes saying you're sorry isn't quite enough, but at least it's a start. That seems to describe Samsung's attitude as the South Korean conglomerate fac...
Lawmakers push for antitrust probe of EpiPen maker
Senate Judiciary Committee wants an FTC investigation11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
High drug prices may not be a partisan issue. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined their Democratic colleagues in asking the Federal T...
High drug prices may not be a partisan issue. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined their Democratic colleagues in asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate drug maker Mylan.
Mylan, you will recall, is the pharmaceutical firm that produces the EpiPen, a device that dispenses a life-saving antidote to allergic shock. The company became a focus of a political storm over the summer when it raised the price of the product to around $600, even though it was essentially the same product that it had been selling for nearly a decade.
On Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-WI) asked the FTC to review Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ business practices involving EpiPens for possible antitrust behavior. The lawmakers made the request in response to published reports that the company attempted to prevent schools from purchasing a competing product.
Since children are often subject to life-threatening allergic reactions, many schools keep the antidote on hand in the event of such emergencies.
A shared priority
“Increasing patient access to safe, effective and affordable medications has long been a shared priority of ours,” the lawmakers from opposing parties wrote in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “We also share a strong belief that potential anti-competitive actions by drug industry participants must be aggressively investigated because of their impact on competition and drug costs.”
When the issue of EpiPen pricing broke into the headlines in August, the federal government quickly took note, since Medicare and Medicaid spent a lot of money on the product. Was the government being overcharged, the Justice Department wanted to know?
Mylan responded to the public pressure by introducing a discount program for low and middle income patients, but refused to budge from its price for the EpiPen.
When the Justice Department began asking questions, Mylan offered to settle, agreeing to pay a $465 million dollar fine to settle charges it had misclassified the drug as a generic. But the company did not admit to any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.
Meanwhile, a number of states, led by Minnesota, are conducting their own investigation into EpiPen pricing to determine whether state Medicaid and other aid programs were overcharged.
In calling for the antitrust probe, Grassley and Leahy said the FTC plays a critical role in protecting consumers from anti-competitive behavior, especially by pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing to looking into the recent Mylan settlement with the Justice Department.
Habit believes there's no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
We’re often told that you are what you eat, but one new startup believes that who you are should determine what you eat. A nutrition tech company called Ha...
Having these apps in your back pocket can help keep your family organized11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
With the holidays just around the corner, there may be a few parties or family gatherings in your future. If you’re a parent, you’ll likely be facing many...
For starters, change the default password on all connected devices11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As we have recently seen, everyday devices that connect to the internet – the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) -- are vulnerable to cyber-attack.Last...
The electric automaker will start charging for charging11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
It's said that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and for new Tesla owners, there will no longer be free supercharging. In this case, "supercharging" r...
How Vine may survive after all
Twitter is reportedly reviewing bids from other companies to buy the app11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last month, Twitter seemed to be in a bit of frenzy to cut costs. It laid off 9% of its workforce and announced plans to axe its mobile video app, Vine....
Last month, Twitter seemed to be in a bit of frenzy to cut costs. It laid off 9% of its workforce and announced plans to axe its mobile video app, Vine.
Upon receiving news of the latter, the internet promptly blew up with indignation and mourning. Fans of the service couldn’t believe that the once-popular six-second video app was going to fall by the wayside, and that got the attention of several prospective new suitors.
A report from TechCrunch reveals that Twitter is fielding several different offers from companies who want to buy Vine. Initially, as many as 10 bids were made for the company, but Twitter has narrowed it down to less than a half-dozen.
There are a couple of problems for Twitter when it comes to making a selection, though. The first is that it isn’t likely that Twitter will earn much revenue from selling off the service. Reports suggest that several of the bids were less than $10 million, which is about what it cost for Twitter to operate the service for a month. So, right off the bat, the compensation might be relatively low.
Secondly, Twitter can’t be sure how selling off Vine will reflect on its own business. Critics suggest that things could go one of two ways: if Vine is bought by a company that can help it flourish, then the strong integration between Vine and Twitter’s app can lead to more video being served on the Twitter platform, attracting users. Twitter may even earn some money from sponsored content deals.
However, if Vine’s new owner ends up shutting down the mobile app or shutting down its archives, the backlash from users and fans could be overwhelming. That kind of negative sentiment could reflect poorly on Twitter, since Vine is so heavily associated with the social media giant. Additionally, another company taking over Vine and making it a huge success could indicate weakness in Twitter’s leadership, who have been unsuccessful with revitalizing the app.
So, it seems that Twitter will have to be very careful when it comes to choosing a new home for Vine. The company could still refuse all offers and continue with plans to phase out the app, but the hard financial times that it’s going through make that a little less likely. Whichever path it chooses, internet users will be sure to be watching.
Most smartphones now cost over $600, but there are cheaper alternatives11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Priced a new smartphone lately? It's definitely a different world since carriers have stopped subsidizing the cost of devices if you signed a two-year cont...
Are consumers suffering from Black Friday burnout?
Survey finds more consumers 'hate' it than 'love' it.11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
We've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do pe...
We've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do people really enjoy standing in line outside a Walmart at 4:00 a.m.?
According to the results, fewer than 15% of those questioned actually “love” the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season. A little over 35% profess to hate it. About half of those in the survey describe Black Friday as “just okay.”
A young person's game
Other takeaways from the survey – younger shoppers tend to “love” Black Friday more than older people. There is a huge drop in affection after Americans turn 30. Consumers who say they hate Thanksgiving openings also hate Black Friday.
Is it possible consumers are just burned out on Black Friday hype? Phil Dengle, a principal at BestBlackFriday, says that's a logical explanation. Also, he says consumers no longer have to get up early and fight the crowds in order to get a good buy.
“The numerous pre-Black Friday and early November sales are absolutely turning shoppers off to the actual day of Black Friday.,” Dengler said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.
As of November 7, Dengler notes that Amazon had already opened its "Black Friday Store," and retailers like Walmart have been showcasing Early Bird Online Specials.
“Actual Black Friday doorbusters will start on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year, so everything is much more spread out,” he said. “Overall, prices are still going to be better on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, but it is still more than possible to find great deals in the weeks leading up.”
More online shopping
And the week after too. Research has shown year after year that overall, the best deals aren't found on Black Friday but in early December. And more and more sales are being conducted online. The significant drop in the number of major retailers open this Thanksgiving probably has less to do with perceived public backlash than with the fact shoppers can still buy things from the comfort of their living rooms between dinner and football.
Plus, Dengler says there are now so many deals, before and after Black Friday, consumers are not obsessed with getting the absolute lowest price.
“Many shoppers just do not want to go through with the hassle and stress of shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so they are sacrificing a few dollars to get it on their own terms,” he said.
Finally, the survey suggests this Black Friday might find the stores not so crowded. Forty percent said they didn't plan to shop at all the day after Thanksgiving and 28% said they would limit their shopping to online.
Hiring slows in September amid static job opening situation
Net hiring over the past year is higher11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Even though there was little change in the number of job openings during September, there were fewer people added to payrolls than in August.The Labor...
Even though there was little change in the number of job openings during September, there were fewer people added to payrolls than in August.
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the number of people who found work dipped to 5.1 million, while the number of job openings was fairly steady at 5.5 million.
With a hires rate of 3.5%, the number of hires was little changed for total private and for government, fell in arts, entertainment, and recreation, and showed little change in all other industries. Hiring was down in the Northeast region and steady in all other regions.
Total separations, or turnover, includes quits, layoffs & discharges, and other separations.
September saw 4.9 million total separations, about the same as August, for a rate of 3.4%. The total was essentially unchanged for private and for government, but increased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Separations decreased in arts, entertainment, and recreation (-55,000), and the total number was little changed in all four regions.
The number of quits was little changed in September (3.1 million), and the quits rate was 2.1%. The number of quits was little changed for total private, and increased for government. The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.
Layoffs and discharges totaled 1.5 million in September, down 218,000 from August, with a rare dip to 1.0%. The number of layoffs and discharges decreased for total private and for government, and was down in the South.
The other separations category was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, government, and in all four regions.
For the year ending in September, hires totaled 62.7 million and separations totaled 60.1 million, for a net employment gain of 2.6 million. This includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.
The complete report is available on the BLS website.
55+ housing market shows continued strength
The market has grown for the last ten quarters11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The market for 55+ housing continued to perk along in the third quarter.According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), its 55+ Housing...
The market for 55+ housing continued to perk along in the third quarter.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), its 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) rose two points in the July-September period for a reading of 59. That marks the 10th consecutive quarter with a reading above 50, which indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
"The 55+ housing market continues on a steady path toward recovery, much like the overall housing market," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Older homeowners are able to take advantage of low mortgage rates and rising home prices, enabling them to sell their current homes and buy or rent a home in a 55+ community."
Gauging the market
There are separate 55+ HMIs for two segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes and multifamily condominiums. Each 55+ HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic, and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair, or poor (high, average, or low for traffic).
Two of the three index components of the 55+ single-family HMI posted an increase from the previous quarter: Present sales rose two points to 63 and traffic of prospective buyers rose five points to 47. Expected sales for the next six months dropped four points to 65.
The 55+ multifamily condo HMI rose one point to 48. The index component for present sales was up two points to 51, while expected sales for the next six months fell three points to 51 and traffic of prospective buyers was unchanged at 38.
All four indices tracking production and demand of 55+ multifamily rentals decreased in the third quarter. Present production fell three points to 48, expected future production decreased seven points to 49, current demand for existing units dropped nine points to 59, and future demand fell eight points to 59.
"Builders and developers for the 55+ housing sector tell us that business is solid right now and they expect that trend to continue through the rest of the year," said Jim Chapman, chairman of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry Council and president of Jim Chapman Homes LLC in Atlanta.
OSI Industries recalls chicken products
The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
OSI Industries of Fort Atkinson, Wis., is recalling approximately 21,403 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials....
OSI Industries of Fort Atkinson, Wis., is recalling approximately 21,403 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products
The following ready-to-eat chicken products, produced on August 5, 2016, are being recalled:
- 35-oz./2 lbs 3 oz frozen plastic packages containing “ON-COR CHICKEN PATTIES MICROWAVEABLE” with Best by Date 8/5/2017
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-5615” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.
What to do
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Dave Wetherton at (844) 674-8100.
Model year 2016 Chevy Malibus recalled
The fabric of the side-impact airbag cushion may tear during deployment11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
General Motors is recalling 18 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured November 18, 2015, to June 7, 2016.The fabric of the side-impact airbag c...
General Motors is recalling 18 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured November 18, 2015, to June 7, 2016.
The fabric of the side-impact airbag cushion may tear during deployment.
If the airbag tears during deployment, it may not perform as designed, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
What to do
GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the air bag module, free of charge. The recall began October 27, 2016.
Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 16079.
Chrysler recalls Jeep Cherokees with airbag inflator issue
The air bag may not inflate properly11/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 88 model year 2017 Jeep Cherokees manufactured October 13, 2016, to October 17, 2016.Improper welds on the driver's...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 88 model year 2017 Jeep Cherokees manufactured October 13, 2016, to October 17, 2016.
Improper welds on the driver's knee airbag inflator may prevent the airbag from inflating properly, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's knee air bag module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 18, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S84.
The rising incidence of colorectal cancer roughly corresponds with the increased use of emulsifiers11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
It's hard to find a processed food that does not contain emulsifiers, additives that are used to extend shelf life and improve texture. Now, a new study fi...
Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar are all giving discounts to travelers making their way to vote11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The time when the nation will decide who will become the next President of the United States is nearly upon us. Regardless of your political or ideological...
Reducing indoor asthma triggers can help keep kids feeling well, AAP says11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Keeping a clean house isn’t always easy where kids are involved, but it may be worth striving for if you’ve got a child with asthma. According to a new...
Consumers should beware of fake apps that steal financial information11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The holiday season is nearly underway, and consumers everywhere are gearing up for the annual shopping extravaganza. However, scammers are also eagerly ant...
Until now, no biologic medications were available to treat pediatric cases of psoriasis11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Of the 125 million people worldwide who suffer from psoriasis, approximately one-third are children. But the lack of FDA-approved treatment options has mad...
Callers demand immediate payment of phony debts, suggest using gift cards to pay11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The phone rings and the caller identifies himself as a police official. Your grandson has been caught texting while driving and needs $500 to get out of ja...
Dish Network, citing viewership data, predicts Clinton win
Company says it knows the shows Democrats and Republicans watch11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
You may have thought FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement over the weekend that the Hillary Clinton email probe is closed again was the big fac...
You may have thought FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement over the weekend that the Hillary Clinton email probe is closed again was the big factor in affecting the race with Donald Trump.
But according to Dish Network, a Clinton victory is baked into America's TV viewing choices. Come January 20, the company predicts, Hillary Clinton will be taking the oath of office.
The “Viewers to Voters” predictive model analyzed anonymous viewership data. Who watches what apparently determines the outcome of the vote. The results show Democrats keeping the White House but Republicans retaining control of the House. The data couldn't get a read on the outcome of Senate races.
Viewership reveals political leanings
The folks at Dish maintain that what you tend to watch on TV reveals your political leanings. For example, it says consumers who watch sports, religious programming, or family-oriented television are more likely to pull the lever for the GOP.
But consumers who watch series and specials, as well as education and music-themed programs, are more likely to support Democrats.
Dish, of course, has access to all this information and its read, based on the numbers it's seen so far, suggests there are more Democrat-leaning viewers than Republican consumers. Of course, the company has no way of knowing who is watching what on DirecTV and other providers, so how reliable can it be?
The company says it deployed the analysis for the first time two years ago, during the mid-term election, and the forecast was 98% accurate.
A different election
True, but this presidential race has been unlike any other in recent memory. One candidate has been investigated by the FBI. The other was caught on tape bragging in vulgar language about his power over women.
In a normal year, it might have disqualified both. But this year, they are somehow running against each other.
What isn't clear from the Dish Network viewership analysis is how many consumers were desperately trying to find something on TV to watch to divert their attention from the election.
Four patients have died and nine others have been infected11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Four patients have died and nine others became ill from a dangerous new fungal infection that has been emerging globally over the last few months, the Cent...
To effectively save money, just take baby steps11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
For families and individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck, saving money for the future, or for an emergency fund, might seem out of the question. But by dev...
New report suggests oil prices will go lower before they go higher11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Gasoline prices are still low by historical norms, but have been slow to drop on seasonal factors. Prices are usually lower in the fall and winter because...
Ford recalls model year 2015-2017 Mustangs
A hose may separate from the engine oil cooler tube assembly causing an oil leak11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 6,582 model year 2015-2017 Mustangs manufactured February 24, 2015, to August 30, 2016.A hose may separate from the eng...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 6,582 model year 2015-2017 Mustangs manufactured February 24, 2015, to August 30, 2016.
A hose may separate from the engine oil cooler tube assembly causing an oil leak.
A sudden loss of engine oil may cause engine failure, increasing the risk of a crash. Additionally, an oil leak, in the presence of an ignition source, increases the risk of a fire.
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the engine oil cooler tube assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332.
OLMA-XXI recalls two smoked fish products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
OLMA-XXI of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling Premium Norwegian Sliced Smoked Salmon and Turbot, Butterfish, Smoked, Sliced Salmon.The product may be contam...
OLMA-XXI of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling Premium Norwegian Sliced Smoked Salmon and Turbot, Butterfish, Smoked, Sliced Salmon.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, packaged in a plastic vacuum packed bag, are being recalled:
- Premium Norwegian Salmon Smoked, Sliced 8 oz (227g), UPC #856687004288, lot #606002 - best by 02/23/2017
- Salmon, Turbot, Butterfish Smoked, Sliced 8 oz (227g), UPC #856687004448, lot #529910- best by 10/20/2016
The recalled products were distributed by refrigerated trucks through retail stores and warehouses between December 2015 – October 2016, in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, Texas, Illinois, Georgia and Washington.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to OLMA-XXI, Inc. for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 718-675-0706, Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm (ET).
Model year 2016 Toyota Highlanders recalled
The brake fluid level sensor may not detect the brake fluid level11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 7,056 model year 2016 Highlanders manufactured May 26, 2016, to September 16, 2016.The brake flui...
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 7,056 model year 2016 Highlanders manufactured May 26, 2016, to September 16, 2016.
The brake fluid level sensor may not be connected to the wire harness, preventing the sensor from detecting the brake fluid level. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 135, "Light Vehicle Brake Systems."
If the brake fluid level is low and is not detected, braking performance may be decreased, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, connect the wire harness to the sensor, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 7, 2016.
Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's number for this G03.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams is recalling selected 16-oz. (pint size) packages of ice cream that have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocyt...
The low beam headlights may not be adjusted properly11/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 996 model year 2016-2017 S550 Coupe 4MATICs, S63 AMG Coupe 4MATICs, S65 AMG Coupes and S63 AMG Convertible 4Matics m...
Children in Flint should not take a drug to combat lead exposure that recently underwent a huge price increase, research says11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
There is no cure for children who have been chronically exposed to low levels of lead, and even a $27,000 drug treatment can't change that. Valeant Pharmac...
Looking out for the bottom line has increased healthcare costs and benefits the few11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Lately, there’s been a lot of outrage aimed at the pharmaceutical industry over high drug prices. Consumers are coming around to the idea that they shouldn...
Journaling your travels -- the best way to preserve your memories
Details fade from memory quickly, but a journal can help you retain them11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
On our first European trip we bought a travel diary and my husband and I took turns chronicling our days. One night we had such an extraordinary dinner, we...
On our first European trip we bought a travel diary and my husband and I took turns chronicling our days. One night we had such an extraordinary dinner, we both wrote. We shared details of our escapades, mishaps, interesting characters, meals, and purchases. Our narratives are descriptive and even decades later it is still fun to look back at our early travels and remember so many details of our trips.
Nowadays we travel so often, it can be hard to stay on top of it all. I still journal, but not by hand and not each day. I use a variety of tools to remember our experiences and work hard to capture all the joyous and offbeat moments. These are some of my helpers:
Take lots of photos. This is one of the best ways to remember your trip and remind yourself of everything you’ve done.
While snapping photos, take pictures of the titles and explanations of the sites you are visiting.
Make sure your cell phone is location enabled; that way it will track where your photos were taken for you, as long as you have a connection.
Write yourself an email, sharing what was special about your day.
Save personal, tour, or cruise itineraries.
Pick up brochures, saving and organizing them in an envelope or plastic sleeve you’ve brought along for this purpose.
Keep your entrance and ticket stubs and all programs.
Purchase postcards. Check your lodging folder as there may be free ones for you to take.
Save menus, if possible, or take photos of interesting foods, dishes, and meals you’d like to recall.
Use the notes app on your cell phone to jot down names of sites, history tidbits, and any details to jog your memory.
Send yourself postcards and write about what you loved about your day or stay. These are fun to scan and use with your photos.
When you return home, organize all your memorabilia by date and location.
Use word processing software to create a journal. Begin with your itinerary, including names of hotels, memory-worthy restaurants and foods, and sightseeing for the day.
Add details using your memorabilia and memory. If you can’t remember names of the special sites you visited, do an online search.
While you are searching, add details and descriptions from the websites. They’ll not only make your experience come alive, the additional knowledge will add to your memories and enhance your experience.
Check in with fellow travelers and make notes of their memories and recollections, including them with yours.
Once you have your journaling done, decide how to use it. A wonderful way to remember your trip is to combine your photographs with your written memories. You can do this with scrapbooks or make an online photobook. Whatever you choose to do, it will be a one-of-a-kind reminder of your travels – something to cherish for years to come.
The suit alleges that the cruise liner left the man to die11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
A lawsuit has been filed against Royal Caribbean for allegedly not making an effort to save or recover the body of Bernardo Texeira Garcia -- a passenger w...
Fin-Tech executive says they can increase consumer security11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
What will you use to make your holiday purchases this year? Consumers concerned about compromised credit or debt card information may choose cash.A sur...
Is the future of driving going to really be that different?
So far, the evidence is scarce11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you believe everything you read lately, the auto industry is about to shrink. Millennials won't buy cars, but will share them through car-sharing arrang...
If you believe everything you read lately, the auto industry is about to shrink. Millennials won't buy cars, but will share them through car-sharing arrangements.
Or, they will simply summon a driverless car from a smartphone app and be driven to and picked up from their destination.
Wall Street has bought into these scenarios as the stock prices for Ford and GM have sunk in recent months. But when all of this happens, and whether it really does happen, is still very much in doubt. After all, each era has offered up ambitious visions for the future that never materialized.
Still robust sales
As for the auto industry, it appears to still be doing quite nicely. Consumers have not yet shown an inclination to give up car ownership. While it's true new car sales were down about 6% last month, it's only because the comparison is to October 2015, when the industry blew the roof off sales projections.
According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), consumers not only bought new vehicles in huge numbers last month, they paid top dollar for them. The average transaction price was $34,663, nearly $800 more than consumers paid in October 2015.
"The Detroit automakers posted gains between 4% and 6% percent, as their strong portfolios of trucks and SUVs align extremely well with current consumer demand,” said KBB analyst Tim Fleming.
The auto industry was on the ropes in early 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis. But since then it has begun to set sales records month after month. Is all that going to end because Millennials want to share cars and not even own one? So far, the evidence hasn't been persuasive.
Role of Millennials
A new study by automotive site Edmunds.com suggests the major impact Millennials are bringing to the auto world features a more prominent role for women in the purchase process. The study found that both men and women are equally confident in their ability to negotiate a deal.
The most likely result of Millennials emergence as the biggest group of car-buyers, says Michelle Shotts, senior director of customer insights at Edmunds, is automakers, dealers, and marketers will begin to engage with car shoppers on a highly personalized, individual level.
But they'll still be buying cars and, for the foreseeable future, they'll be driving them themselves.
Poof's fitness trackers attach to your pet's collar and send information to an app11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for humans and pets alike. For help maintaining a healthy lifestyle, many people turn to wearable activity tracke...
Oil and other goop drips out of the device and onto the dash11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Anthony Succi's car may smell nice, but it has a big ugly hole in its dashboard. He claims in a federal class action lawsuit that the Glade air freshener h...
What parents can do to cut down on the amount of salt kids consume11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The diet of the average American child still contains much more salt than is recommended, a new study finds. As kids’ preference for high sodium foods grow...
Thirteen models have payments less than $200 a month11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers who consider a new car lease instead of a purchase should always think about the initial cost of the vehicle and the residual value at the end of...
The unemployment rate held steady11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
There were fewer new jobs in October than in September, with the overall pace of job creation continuing to decline.The Department of Labor (DOL) repor...
Mercedes-Benz recalls various GLE Class vehicles
The low beam headlights may not be adjusted properly11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,215 model year 2016-2017 GLE 300d 4MATIC, GLE 350, GLE 350 4MATIC, and GLE 400 4MATIC vehicles manufactured Octobe...
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,215 model year 2016-2017 GLE 300d 4MATIC, GLE 350, GLE 350 4MATIC, and GLE 400 4MATIC vehicles manufactured October 14, 2015, to November 23, 2015.
The vehicles' low beam headlights may not be adjusted properly. Thus, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Assoc. Equipment."
If the low-beam headlights are out of adjustment, the driver's visibility may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and correct the headlight adjustment, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in November 2016.
Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.
Flavor Trade recalls beef jerky products
The products did not undergo federal inspection11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is recalling approximately 113 pounds of beef jerky products that did not undergo federal inspection and used the USDA ma...
Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is recalling approximately 113 pounds of beef jerky products that did not undergo federal inspection and used the USDA mark of inspection without authorization.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following items, produced September 27 – 28, and October 25 – 26, 2016, are being recalled:
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Wheat” which may or may not include package code 614261.
- 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Porter” which may or may not include package code 619290.
The recalled products may or may not incorrectly bear a USDA mark of inspection which would include establishment number “EST. 48135.” They were shipped to retail locations in Missouri.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or returned them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Shannon Kimball at (816) 531-2288.
Ford Escapes and Mercury Mariners recalled
The fuel delivery module may crack, causing a fuel leak.11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 329,265 model year 2010-2012 Ford Escapes manufactured February 26, 2009, to April 29, 2012, and 2010-2011 Mercury Mariners...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 329,265 model year 2010-2012 Ford Escapes manufactured February 26, 2009, to April 29, 2012, and 2010-2011 Mercury Mariners manufactured February 25, 2009, to December 12, 2010.
On vehicles with a 3.0L engine, the Fuel Delivery Module (FDM) may crack, causing a fuel leak. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the FDM flange with one that has a redesigned fuel supply port, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16S41.
Running Trainer recalls bicycles
The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a fall hazard11/04/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Running Trainer of Australia is recalling about 245 Bionic Runner bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a...
Running Trainer of Australia is recalling about 245 Bionic Runner bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.
The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a fall hazard to riders.
The firm has received one report of a pedal detaching from the bicycle, resulting in an injury to a rider who fell off the bicycle and scraped his knees and finger.
This recall involves the Gen 2 Bionic Runner bicycles that mimic running motion. The bicycles are black and have red pedals and red trim around the wheels. The bicycles have a folding frame and “BIONIC RUNNER” is printed in white on the side of the stirrups.
The bicycles, manufactured in China, were sold online at Running Trainer’s website, www.run4.com, from May 2016, through September 2016, for about $900.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact Running Trainer to receive free replacement pedals. The firm has contacted all registered owners directly.
Consumers may contact Running Trainer at 800-603-4631 from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday, by email at email@example.com or online at www.run4.com and click on “Safety Notices” at the bottom of the page for more information.
Airbag deaths and injuries continue to mount as troubled Takata seeks a buyer11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
An airbag showing rips caused by shrapnel.There are still about 70 million cars in the United States equipped with Takata airbags that could prove fa...
Rankings for the best and worst U.S. airports
Phoenix ranks as the best, while La Guardia comes in last11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Experienced air travelers know which airports they like and which ones to stay away from. Unfortunately, for those of us who don’t fly as much, bad service...
Experienced air travelers know which airports they like and which ones to stay away from. Unfortunately, for those of us who don’t fly as much, bad service and amenities can often catch us by surprise.
To address this issue, the folks over at ThePointsGuy.com – a travel and lifestyle media platform -- took a look at the 30 busiest airports in the U.S. and ranked them from best to worst.
Each was judged on a variety of factors, including flight delays, cancellations, average security wait times, distance from the city center, public transit options, bars and restaurants, lounges, Wi-Fi costs, and parking rates.
Best and worst
The study found that Phoenix Sky Harbor International was the best airport in the U.S. It is the closest airport to its city’s center, has the second-best public transit time, third-cheapest parking, third-most restaurants and bars per capita, and the fifth-fewest flight cancellations.
Rounding out the top five were Portland International Airport in Oregon; San Diego International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and Honolulu International Airport.
On the other hand, frequent fliers in New York will dismayed -- thought not surprised -- that two of their most well-known airports make the bottom of the list. La Guardia Airport, located in Queens, came in dead last due to having the most flight delays, most cancellations, and most expensive parking of all the airports surveyed.
John F. Kennedy Airport, also in Queens, occupies the second-to-last spot for having the longest security wait times and longest driving time from the city center.
The other three contenders at the bottom of the list included Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.
To see the complete list, visit the researchers' site here.
The Chinese-made units were sold under numerous brand names11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
About 3.4 million GD Midea dehumidifiers sold under just about every brand name you can think of are being recalled because they can overheat and catch fir...
Feds designate routes with alternative fuel stations
It's intended to make it easier to travel longer distances in electric, propane, and hydrogen cars11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Having an electric car is fine, but you need to plug it in once in awhile. A new federal program aims to make it a little bit easier to find a charging sta...
Having an electric car is fine, but you need to plug it in once in awhile. A new federal program aims to make it a little bit easier to find a charging station, not to mention a place to fill up your hydrogen, propane, or natural gas vehicle.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has designated 55 routes that will serve as the basis for a national network of “alternative fuel” corridors spanning 35 states.
“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”
The network is nearly 85.000 miles long and more routes will be added as new fueling and charging stations are built, Foxx said.
The corridors designated as “sign-ready,” meaning routes where alternative fuel stations are currently in operation, will be eligible to feature new signs alerting drivers where they can find fuel for their alternative fuel vehicles -- similar to the existing signs along Interstates that point to gas, food, and lodging.
Maps that show the various routes designated for electric, propane, hydrogen, and natural gas vehicles are on the FHWA website.
The increased demand has led to tightened supplies and higher prices on some beans11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Millennials can’t get enough of the caffeine-filled elixir that makes mornings easier. In fact, younger consumers are drinking so much coffee that demand i...
However, U.S. consumers likely won't be the first ones to get access to it11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For many consumers, having a dead internet or cable connection is a good way to ruin an evening. Thankfully, many services -- including Amazon Prime, Googl...
Lowe's Vision may help shoppers conceptualize their projects before starting them11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Virtual Reality might be useful for more than just games. Retailers are using it to increase their sales. With its new Tango-enabled Augmented Reality app,...
'Deer season' takes on a whole different meaning for motorists11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
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Thanksgiving air travel projected to rise 2.5%
But airlines are confident they can handle the extra passengers11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you are traveling by air this Thanksgiving weekend, hopefully you have booked your flight by now.If not, you may not only have a hard time making co...
If you are traveling by air this Thanksgiving weekend, hopefully you have booked your flight by now.
If not, you may not only have a hard time making connections, but you'll pay the premium rate.
For those of you who have your tickets and made your plans, you might want to get to the airport a little early. Estimates suggest there will be crowded terminals.
Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade group, projects 27.3 million consumers will travel by air during the Thanksgiving travel period, a rise of 2.5% over last Thanksgiving. The group says that amounts to an extra 55,000 passengers a day.
74,000 extra seats
For their part, the airlines say they can handle the extra load. Domestic airlines have added 74,000 seats per day by adding flights and replacing smaller planes with larger ones.
The reason more consumers are flocking to the nation's airports is no mystery. The airlines have lowered fares, passing on some of their fuel savings to consumers.
“Airlines are adding capacity to accommodate the increased demand, and travelers should rest assured that while more people will be flying, there will be more than an adequate number of seats available,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.
Airlines may have increased their capacity to handle the expected increase in passengers, but what about the boarding process? Should travelers expect bottlenecks at airport security checkpoints?
The airlines say these checkpoints should be manageable because of the increased number of consumers who have registered for programs like PreCheck, that moves passengers through the screening process faster.
The Transportation Security Administration says that consumers who purchase a five-year membership for $85 will be able to get through the security checkpoint and board the aircraft without having to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets.
TSA says it's still a good idea to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight, especially during the Thanksgiving travel period. You'll find TSA's additional tips for reducing your waiting time in line here.
Federal, state authorities sue New York debt collectors
Defendants allegedly ran roughshod over consumers' rights11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There are several ways debt collectors can step over the line when they try to collect money from consumers. A lawsuit claims Buffalo, N.Y. debt collectors...
There are several ways debt collectors can step over the line when they try to collect money from consumers. A lawsuit claims Buffalo, N.Y. debt collectors tried just about all of them.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have filed a federal court lawsuit against two individuals who Schneiderman alleges were operating a network of “fly-by-night collection shops that harass, threaten, and deceive” consumers so that they would pay money they might not owe.
The lawsuit seeks to close the debt collection operations and to compensate consumers affected by the debt collection efforts.
Threats and deception
“These collection shops inflated debts, threatened victims, and deceived them out of millions,” Schneiderman said.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray says the debt collectors used fear and intimidation tactics to force consumers to pay debts, without verifying or proving that they actually owed the money.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act sets out consumers' rights when it comes to collecting debts and places strict limits on what collectors can say or do. When collectors violate these rules, they can often force consumers to pay money they do not legally owe.
List of charges
The suit makes a number of accusations. It claims the defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in its interactions with consumers. It also claims they ran afoul of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which bars unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the consumer financial marketplace.
The suit claims “repeated fraudulent acts and deceptive acts or practices” in violation of New York law, which also has provisions covering debt collection.
The specific charges provide a laundry list of things a debt collector is not supposed to do: inflating the amount owed by taking on fees they aren't allowed to collect; threatening legal action against the consumer when there were no grounds to do so; and telling consumers they would be arrested immediately if they didn't pay up.
The suit is a good reminder that consumers have options when a debt collector is trying to collect a dubious debt. Among the key provisions is the right to see verification of the debt.
The Federal Trade Commission spells out consumers' rights here.
Retailers already rolling out holiday shopping deals
Amazon opens a Black Friday Store with daily deals11/03/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other stor...
As they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other store does.
Amazon has opened up what it calls its Black Friday Store, with sale items every day in advance of the official start to the holiday shopping season. In fact, Amazon is promising to put up new deals periodically every day until December 22.
At the same time, the online retail giant has launched several curated Holiday Gift Guides. The company predicts OLED, HDR, and 4K TVs will be big draws in electronics, along with Alexa-enabled home security cameras, VR/360-degree cameras, instant film cameras, and drone photography.
Other predicted hot items include Twitch streaming and in-home music studio equipment, along with VR and AR gaming products.
Shopping with Alexa
"This holiday season, we're offering more deals than ever before and - for the first time ever - giving Prime members an opportunity to use Alexa voice shopping for purchasing their holiday gifts hands-free,” said Doug Herrington, Senior Vice President of North American Retail at Amazon. “They can make purchases simply by asking Alexa-enabled devices, like the new Echo Dot, while relaxing at home with family and friends."
Walmart is also getting an early start, offering up daily holiday gift deals on its website. There are featured deals each day from a number of different departments, including electronics, apparel, toys, and appliances.
Sam's Club, meanwhile, has introduced its “Instant Savings Book,” promising instant deals across all departments. The company says all the potential savings add up to $5,000.
Of course, Black Friday itself is coming up fast. BestBlackFriday.com has published what it says are leaked Black Friday ad slicks from Sam's Club, Dell, Walmart, and Toys R Us. Deals include a Dell laptop for $99.99.
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AC Creamery recalls Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream
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AC Creamery of Anaheim, Calif., is recalling its 16-oz. packages of Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....