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    Amazon is getting an early start on Cyber Monday

    The online retailer is offering a sneak peek at what’s coming up after Black Friday

    Amazon isn’t even waiting for Black Friday to arrive before offering a peek at its Cyber Monday shopping deals.

    The online retail giant plans to mark down prices on a wide range of electronics products, including the Echo Dot for $22 and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for $19.99.

    It’s knocking $100 off the PS4 PRO and taking up to 45 percent off on HAUS LABORATORIES by Lady Gaga Limited Time kits. Readers can also get up to 80 percent off on best-selling ebooks on Kindle.

    One giant shopping spree

    The name “Cyber Monday” harkens back to that quaint time about 20 years ago when most consumers had dial-up internet access at home but worked in offices equipped with broadband. It became a tradition to go back to work after the Black Friday weekend when the boss wasn’t looking and buy stuff online.

    With a growing percentage of holiday purchases moving to online channels and starting on Thanksgiving Day itself -- or even the day before -- the holiday period and the following Monday have all become one giant shopping spree.

    Still, Amazon and its fellow retailers are honoring the tradition by offering Cyber Monday deals. Besides electronic devices, Amazon Brands are being marked down as well. Shoppers will find up to 50 percent discounts on Amazon Essentials, Simple Joys by Carter’s, and Spotted Zebra.

    There will also be discounts on bedding & bath products; furniture from Rivet and Stone & Beam; luggage & travel from AmazonBasics; and kitchen electrics & housewares from AmazonBasics and Stone & Beam.

    Deals on apparel include:

    • Up to 40 percent off on jeans from AG, Hudson, and more;

    • Up to 35 percent off on Lacoste clothing, shoes, accessories, and home;

    • Up to 40 percent off on Champion, Puma and more;

    • Up to 40 percent off on New Balance shoes and apparel;

    • Up to 35 percent off on Reebok footwear and apparel;

    • Up to 45 percent off on Luggage sets from Columbia, Tommy Bahama, and Delsey;

    • Up to 40 percent off on Accessories from Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s and more; and

    • Up to 56 off on select Ross-Simons jewelry.

    Getting an early start

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that half of holiday shoppers had already started making purchases by the end of last week, further proof that specific shopping days are all merging with one another.

    “Thanksgiving is still a hallmark of the season, and there’s billions of dollars in shopping still to come,” said NRF CEO Matthew Shay. “But many consumers have already been shopping for weeks, and retailers are increasingly adapting to that.”

    Amazon isn’t even waiting for Black Friday to arrive before offering a peek at its Cyber Monday shopping deals.The online retail giant plans to mark do...
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    Consumers increasingly relying on food delivery services for Thanksgiving meals

    Missing ingredients and even full meals can now be ordered

    Nearly 50 percent of consumers forget a key ingredient while cooking their holiday meal, according to a survey recently conducted by Postmates

    Of 1,000 people polled, 10 percent admitted that they always forget something important on a holiday like Thanksgiving. By demographic, 55-64 year olds were the most likely to forget something important at the grocery store; 62 percent of “home cooks” in this age bracket admitted to doing so. 

    But instead of going back to the store, a growing number of consumers are choosing to have food and forgotten holiday meal ingredients delivered to their doorstep. 

    “This year, convenience culture is taking a front seat as desserts, appetizers and—you guessed it—the main course are the three most likely items to be ordered for delivery,” Postmates said of its survey results. “Other honorary mentions chosen by consumers include alcohol, side dishes and the entire holiday meal.” 

    Use of food delivery services on the rise

    These days, consumers have a number of options when it comes to having food delivered. Amazon’s food delivery service, Amazon Fresh, recently became free for Prime members in certain markets. The service previously cost $15 per month. 

    Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it would be launching an in-home grocery delivery service that would let customers have fresh products placed directly in their refrigerator by a Walmart employee. The retailer’s “InHome” service has initially been rolled out to consumers in in Kansas City, Missouri; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Vero Beach, Florida.

    Full meals can even be ordered through services like Fresh Direct, which has announced that it’s offering “heat and eat Thanksgiving feasts” delivered right to a consumer’s door. Prices start at $99 for a Thanksgiving meal that feeds 2-4. 

    With more retailers beginning to expand their food delivery options, existing services have started slashing prices in an effort to stay competitive. In 2018, Instacart announced that it would be reducing the annual fee for Instacart Express from $149 to $99. Target also recently reduced its per-order fee for its Shipt service. 

    “As consumers look for ways to increase their productivity and decrease their stress, apps and other online services are swiftly becoming a crucial component to their everyday lives,” Postmates says. 

    Nearly 50 percent of consumers forget a key ingredient while cooking their holiday meal, according to a survey recently conducted by Postmates. Of 1,00...
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      Toys ‘R’ Us opens first new store since filing for bankruptcy

      A smaller, experience-focused store has opened in Paramus, New Jersey

      Nearly a year and a half after filing for bankruptcy and closing its stores, Toys “R” Us has reopened its first new store inside Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey. Another new Toys “R” Us store is set to open December 7 at the The Galleria mall in Houston, Texas.

      Richard Barry, CEO of Toys “R” Us’ parent company Tru Kids, hinted earlier this year that new store locations would be smaller and designed to create a "highly engaging retail experience designed for kids, families, and to better fit within today's retail environment."

      The new store, which opened Wednesday, includes a 3D virtual Geoffrey the Giraffe inside a “magical mirror” that shoppers can play with. The store has been segmented into shops from big-name brands, including Hasbro, Nintendo, Little Tikes maker MGA Entertainment, and Lego. Consumers can interact with toys in each of the shops. 

      “Toys R Us is built into the fabric of childhood and for more than 70 years has been the most trusted source for toys and play,” Barry said in a statement. “With the return of Toys R Us stores in the U.S., we are bringing a highly engaging, experience-driven retail destination that celebrates play and deepens the connection between the world’s best toy, play and entertainment brands and customers.

      Toys “R” Us announced recently that it partnered with Target for the reboot of its website. The retailer said it chose to team up with Target because of its strong supply chain and clear “understanding of the [toy] category.” Under the partnership, online shoppers will be redirected to Target’s website to complete their purchase after clicking “Buy.” 

      Toys “R” Us announced in 2017 that it would be closing all of its stores as a result of financial struggles. Barry has described the retailer’s plans for a reimagined Toys “R” Us as an “incredible opportunity.” 

      Nearly a year and a half after filing for bankruptcy and closing its stores, Toys “R” Us has reopened its first new store inside Westfield Garden State Pla...
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      Today’s traffic may be the worst of the holidays

      Transportation experts say Thanksgiving may be the most dangerous day to be on the road

      If you’re leaving today for a Thanksgiving holiday trip, today is likely to offer the worst traffic you’ll face, if history is any guide.

      Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) analyzed millions of car trips over last year’s Thanksgiving holiday period and found that Wednesday was the day with the worst traffic. This year, as many as 50 million Americans will be on the nation’s highways over the next five days.

      That said, the most dangerous day on the road may be Thanksgiving day itself. CMT researchers say there’s a lot of speeding and distracted driving, perhaps by motorists trying to get to grandma’s house in time for the festivities.

      Distracted driving seems to be the worst in Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville, Arlington, Texas, and Kansas City. The police hand out the most speeding tickets in Boston, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

      Stable gas prices

      The good news for holiday motorists is stable gasoline prices. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gas is $2.58 a gallon, a penny less than last week at this time.

      Gasoline prices have been on a slow decline over the last few weeks, but prices have been going down much more slowly than they did last year. The price of regular gas is about five cents a gallon more than it was at this time last year.

      “During Thanksgiving week last year we saw the national gas price average decrease a nickel between Monday and Thursday, that could be the case again this year,” said AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “AAA recommends holiday road-trippers use the AAA app to find current gas prices along their route.”

      As of this week, 61 percent of all gas stations in the country are selling regular unleaded for $2.50 or less. 

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($3.85)

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • Washington ($3.33) 

      • Nevada ($3.30)

      • Oregon ($3.20) 

      • Alaska ($3.15)

      • Idaho ($2.96) 

      • Arizona ($2.92)

      • Utah ($2.94)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.79)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Louisiana ($2.22)

      • Mississippi ($2.22)

      • Missouri ($2.25)

      • Texas ($2.25)

      • Alabama ($2.25)

      • South Carolina ($2.29)

      • Oklahoma ($2.29)

      • Tennessee ($2.30)

      • Arkansas ($2.30)

      • Virginia ($2.31)

      If you’re leaving today for a Thanksgiving holiday trip, today is likely to offer the worst traffic you’ll face, if history is any guide.Cambridge Mobi...
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      GM recalls Chevrolet and GMC trucks with carpet floor covering

      Hot gas may vent when the front seat belt pretensioners deploy

      General Motors is recalling 556,399 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s & GMC Sierra 1500s, and model year 2020 Silverado 2500s, Silverado 3500s, Sierra 2500s and Sierra 3500s with carpet floor covering.

      When the front seat belt pretensioners deploy, hot gas may vent through an opening in the pretensioner bracket, possibly igniting the carpet.

      A vehicle fire could result if materials ignite inside the vehicle.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will close off the opening in the pretensioner bracket free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020or GMC customer service at (888) 988-7267. GM's number for this recall is N192270600.

      General Motors is recalling 556,399 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s & GMC Sierra 1500s, and model year 2020 Silverado 2500s, Silverado 3500s...
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      Central Valley Meat recalls ground beef

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Dublin

      Central Valley Meat Co., of Hanford, Calif., is recalling approximately 34,222 pounds of ground beef.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Dublin.

      Ten case-patients have been identified in six states with illness onset dates ranging from August 8 – September 22, 2019.

      The following items, produced on July 23, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 1-lb. chub packages of “STATER BROS. 100% PURE GROUND BEEF 96% LEAN 4% FAT” with lot 2049 on the retail label; lot 19204 on the case label; and Use By 08-14-19.
      • 2-lb. chub packages of “STATER BROS. 100% PURE GROUND BEEF 93% LEAN 7% FAT” with lot 2049 on the retail label; lot 19204 on the case label; and Use By 08-14-19.
      • 20-lb. cases containing “STATER BROS 93/7 Ground Beef 10# Chub 10 Lb. Chubs/ 2 Count” with lot 19204 on the case label and Use By 08-14-19.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 6063A” printed on the retail labels next to the lot number and inside the USDA mark of inspection on the case labels, was shipped to retail locations in California.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard or return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact Josh Bornemann at inquiry@centralvalleymeat.com.

      Central Valley Meat Co., of Hanford, Calif., is recalling approximately 34,222 pounds of ground beef.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Du...
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      McDonald’s settles lawsuit accusing it of violating overtime laws

      A suit filed in 2009 alleged that the company cheated 38,000 workers in California out of overtime pay and breaks

      McDonald’s has agreed to pay $26 million to resolve claims that it failed to appropriately pay thousands of its workers in California. 

      The class action lawsuit originated in early 2013 when McDonald’s worker Maria Sanchez accused the fast food giant of wage theft dating back as far as 2009. The suit was filed on behalf of roughly 38,000 people employed at stores owned and operated by McDonald's. 

      McDonald’s was accused of violating California overtime payment laws by structuring its books in a way that denied workers overtime pay. The suit also maintained that McDonald’s refused to give employees timely meal or rest breaks during their shifts and that it forced workers to spend their own money to have their uniforms cleaned and ironed. 

      "McDonald's cheated us out of tens of millions, but by standing up and speaking out, we're holding the world's second largest employer accountable for breaking the law," Los Angeles McDonald’s worker Rosario Mercado said in a news release.

      Company denies wrongdoing

      McDonald’s issued a statement saying it was choosing to settle the claims despite its belief that it never violated California’s labor law. 

      "While we continue to believe our employment practices comply with the California Labor Code, we have decided to resolve this lawsuit," McDonald's said, adding that it remains “committed to the fair treatment of all of our employees.” 

      The company noted that it “continuously” rolls out additional trainings and resources across company-owned restaurants to “promote continued compliance with all wage and hour laws." 

      As part of the settlement, McDonald’s also committed to providing periodic training for managers and workers, informing them of rules and options regarding meal and rest breaks, and providing uniforms at no cost in the event that workers’ uniforms become damaged or worn. 

      McDonald’s has agreed to pay $26 million to resolve claims that it failed to appropriately pay thousands of its workers in California. The class action...
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      Data breaches have made phone scams more dangerous, experts say

      Scammers are using bits of personal information against consumers this holiday season

      Scammers are constantly adapting and have developed new strategies to take advantage of consumers this holiday season.

      A new study by First Orion identifies "enterprise spoofing" as one of the major trends. That scheme involves the use of stolen data, obtained from the countless data breaches, to impersonate trusted businesses or charities. 

      You’ve probably seen an example in your email inbox. More likely, one of these scammers has called you on the phone. But instead of a robocaller trying to sell you worthless health insurance, enterprise spoofing scams are likely to be much more personal, which makes them dangerous. First Orion found that more than 15 percent of consumers it surveyed received a personalized scam call. 

      ‘Onslaught of data breaches’

      When the field was narrowed down to just those consumers who lost money to a scammer, three-quarters said the criminal knew some personal information about them when they made the call. 

      "The onslaught of data breaches armed scammers with enough stolen information to fabricate intricate and personalized scam calls," said Scott Hambuchen, chief information officer at First Orion. "With stolen personal data leaked in mass, consumers are being targeted by much more sophisticated and effective personalized scam calls.” 

      Not only do the scammers mine data breaches for personal tidbits about individual consumers, but they then spoof a business or organization’s Caller ID to trick consumers into thinking the call is legitimate. 

      But then, legitimate calls are becoming a rare thing. More than half the consumers in the survey said that they receive more spam calls than real calls on any given day.

      The personal information about intended victims comes from the data breaches that have almost become a weekly occurrence. As we reported last week, this incomplete information is also being harnessed by scammers to create “synthetic identifies” that allow them to carry out fraud.

      Impersonating charitable organizations

      At this time of year, enterprise spoofers are stepping up their efforts to impersonate charitable organizations. These schemes are very effective, especially when the scammer might have some personal information about the potential victim.

      In the study, 24 percent of the consumers who received a call from a phony charity fell for it, with scammers often using the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and UNICEF as cover for their schemes.

      Consumers who want to give to one of these charities should go directly to the organizations’ websites and not click on email links or respond to telephone solicitations.

      Scammers are constantly adapting and have developed new strategies to take advantage of consumers this holiday season.A new study by First Orion identi...
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      Winter home-shopping can pay off

      Some of the biggest discounts buyers can find are available in December

      People tend to purchase homes in the spring, which is why it’s called the “spring home-buying season.” They don’t call it the winter home-buying season.

      But maybe they should. A new data analysis from ATTOM Data Solutions suggests that winter is the best time to purchase a home if you want to secure the best deal possible -- and it makes sense. In the spring, buyers have the most competition for homes and might even encounter a bidding war, which could encourage sellers to hold out for their listing price. With less competition in winter months, buyers have a little more leverage.

      When ATTOM Data Solutions looked at home closings all year round, they found only three days in which buyers got homes priced below the estimated market value. All three days were in December.

      The day after Christmas is ideal

      The analysis shows buyers who closed the day after Christmas got the biggest discount from the full market value. Researchers reached that conclusion after looking at more than 23 million home sales over the last six years.

      "Closing on a home purchase the day after Christmas or on New Year's Eve can be one of the most financially beneficial holiday-season gifts you can get," said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. "While lots of folks are shopping the day-after Christmas sales or getting ready to ring in the New Year, our data shows that buyers and investors are buying homes on those days at a discount.”

      Granted, the discount isn’t huge. On December 26, buyers save about $500 on the purchase of a median-priced home. But when you’re buying a house, every little bit helps. On the other hand, buyers who wait until June to close on a house will end up paying a 7 percent premium, Teta says.

      Home experts at Nationwide Insurance agree that winter is one of the best times to buy a home, but they say autumn is also a good time. The approach of the holidays, they say, distracts potential buyers so that there is less competition.

      In the end, that reduced competition may be the biggest benefit from fall and winter home-shopping. It increases the likelihood that you’ll get the home you want without another buyer swooping in at the last minute and offering a higher price.

      People tend to purchase homes in the spring, which is why it’s called the “spring home-buying season.” They don’t call it the winter home-buying season....
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      Air pollution could increase consumers' risk of glaucoma

      Researchers say the eye condition could worsen if exposed to low air quality

      Air pollution has recently been linked to any number of health concerns, including both lung disease and breathing problems. Now, a new study found that it could also affect consumers’ eyesight. 

      Researchers from University College London found that consumers who live in areas with heavier air pollution could be at an increased risk of glaucoma. 

      “We have found yet another reason why air pollution should be addressed as a public health priority, and that avoiding sources of air pollution could be worthwhile for eye health alongside other health concerns,” said researcher Paul Foster. “While we cannot confirm yet that the association is causal, we hope to continue our research to determine whether air pollution does indeed cause glaucoma, and to find out if there are any avoidance strategies that could help people reduce their exposure to air pollution to mitigate the health risks.” 

      Risks to eye health

      To understand how air pollution could be affecting consumers’ eye health, the researchers had over 111,000 participants receive regular eye exams over the course of four years. The researchers compared the results from these eye exams with recorded measures of air pollution based on participants’ addresses to determine how the air they were exposed to most often was affecting their eye health. 

      As researchers continue to find ways that pollutants are affecting consumers’ lifespans, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a connection has been made to worsening eye health. 

      Participants who were regularly exposed to the highest levels of air pollution were, at a minimum, six percent more likely to have glaucoma. Moreover, the researchers found that participants’ eye exams revealed that they had the early markings of glaucoma even if they had not yet been diagnosed with the condition.

      These findings were positive for the researchers, as doctors now have another factor to consider when evaluating patients who could be at risk of the condition. 

      “Most risk factors for glaucoma are out of our control, such as older age or genetics,” said Foster. “It’s promising that we may now have identified a second risk factor for glaucoma, after eye pressure, that can be modified by lifestyle, treatment, or policy changes.” 

      Air pollution has recently been linked to any number of health concerns, including both lung disease and breathing problems. Now, a new study found that it...
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      Bitcoin dips below $7,000

      The digital currency is down around $3,000 in the last month

      Bitcoin fell below $7,000 this week, part of a $3,000 plunge over the last 30 days. There’s one major catalyst -- China.

      The Chinese government has begun a crackdown on businesses engaged in all forms of cryptocurrency, but especially Bitcoin. The digital currency traded around $10,000 during October.

      China is also the reason for October’s Bitcoin rally. When Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech saying his country should be more open to blockchain technology, traders took that as a buy signal. But that suggestion never made it to official policy.

      Over the weekend, China’s central bank (the People’s Bank of China) announced that it would take action against digital currency exchanges and warned Chinese investors to think twice before buying the digital assets. That accelerated the sell-off.

      Bitcoin’s value has always fluctuated on supply and demand. With investors realizing their hopes that China would do an about-face and embrace the coin were mistaken, there has been a rush to sell and an absence of new buyers. As a result, the value has gone into freefall. 

      Even after the sell-off, Bitcoin is worth about double what it was at its 2019 low when the out-of-favor digital currency fell to just over $3,100. But its value is a far cry from its all-time high in December 2017 when Bitcoin’s value reached more than $19,000.

      Bitcoin fell below $7,000 this week, part of a $3,000 plunge over the last 30 days. There’s one major catalyst -- China.The Chinese government has begu...
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