We love when Toys R Us does this. Ah, yes. "While supplies last." Hurry, people. Hurry.
According to Wired, the biologists visited 31 restaurants in Denver and Manhattan to evaluate technology that analyzes the DNA code of fish, and upload the info to a fish database called FISH-BOL.
Instead of tuna, they got escloar, a fish that causes "bizarre episodes of diarrhea, accompanied by a waxy intestinal discharge." Other restaurants misrepresented what fish they were serving, and a few even served endangered southern bluefin.
The CPSC announced findings linking Chinese drywall to reports of home corrosion, and a possible link between the sulfuric gas emitting from them and health problems.
It's like watching a slow-motion video of cirrhosis of the lung.
The Decline: Geography of a Recession, by Latoya Egwuekwe [American Observer via Boing Boing]
Alexandros received an update from Orbitz about his trip and realized that United had changed the time of his flight. For various reasons he couldn't make the new time, so he was lucky to have caught it—not to mention he could have missed the flight entirely had he not seen the change.
Orbitz sent me an email to remind me of an upcoming trip. What they and United Airlines failed to mention was that the flight had been rescheduled. It now departed 40 minutes prior to the originally scheduled time. I immediately called Orbitz to find my rights with United as far as getting to the airport in time.
I live outside of DC and do not have a car. As such, I booked the flight so I could take public transportation, rather than take a $50+ taxi ride. The 9:00 flight would the the very latest I could leave and still make it to the airport. Thus, those 40 minutes made the world of difference.
Orbitz said they could contact the airline for me to see what could happen. After being on hold for a few minutes, Orbitz informed me they could rebook me on another flight. This is where United decided to continue to make everything worse. They tried to book me on a flight that would change my air travel time from 2.5 hours (direct) to 6.5 hours (1 connection). I then suggested they give me a flight that leaves from the other airport in DC that would drop the time down to 5.5 hours. I will be carrying food so time is of the essence. It was a different initial flight, but the connecting flight would be the same. United said this change was not available to me. I kept insisting for a further explanation. After they refused to give it to me a few times, they finally caved in.
While in the process of trying to book me on the flight, the Orbitz representative kept coming back on the line saying they were still in the process. After being on the phone for 53 minutes, I asked her to just call me back. Oribtz was wonderful in calling me back promptly. The only problem is she came back saying United wanted $33 to change the flight since it would be leaving in a different airport. The reasoning was based on the change in the ticket price. I refused and suggested they pay for my taxi instead. Orbitz is still having trouble negotiating with United to even pay for the taxi. I will send an update as it becomes available.
In this whole ordeal, Carmela from Orbitz has been very patient and courteous. She has also been wonderful at calling me back. I hope she can help me work everything out.
A little while later, Alexandros wrote back in with an update:
United decided not to charge me the fee and gave me the flight. It is very strange to me that they would have tried in the first place. I was very patient with Orbitz in the whole process and was even willing to more than double my travel time. It would have been much easier for me if United just paid for my taxi. I was trying to be flexible to ensure I reached my destination. United made the whole process difficult and stressful.
The moral of this story: stay up-to-date on your flight information, and be prepared to spend some time fixing any problems the carrier might cause; with any luck, and a helpful CSR, your perseverance will pay off.
Police in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are withdrawing charges against the two college students who refused to tip at a pub last month, says The Morning Call.
The Northampton County District Attorney, John Morganelli, first found out about the arrests in the news, and made a recommendation last week that the charges be dropped. "I had recommended that the case be withdrawn, but that ultimately was a decision of the Bethlehem Police Department," he told the paper.
The manager of the pub sounded a bit surprised at the news:
Lehigh Pub manager William Sheehan said Monday it was "news to him" that the charges were being withdrawn.
He read a comment he said was written by the pub's attorney.
"We do not agree with the facts as presented in the press last week," Sheehan said. "This is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Bethlehem Police Department, not Lehigh Pub, and we will defer to them as the legal process plays out."
One issue that was brought up last week, and is mentioned in this article again, is that the gratuity worked out to about 22% of the bill, and not the 18% that the pub claimed. Whether that's explained by error, greed, or some detail that hasn't yet been revealed, it's a good example of why you should always calculate the tip yourself and make sure it matches what's on the final bill.
"DA: Police to withdraw theft charges against non-tippers" [The Morning Call] (Thanks to Jason!)
"College Students Arrested For Refusing To Pay Tip"
The end of the year is usually when you tip service providers, but if you're on a reduced budget then you're probably going to want to scale back this year. Here are some suggestions from etiquette experts contacted by Reuters.
"Cutting holiday tips seen as chance to really say thank you" [Reuters]
Reader Adam bought an open box Blu-Ray player from Best Buy and didn't notice for 10 months that it was the wrong model. When he mentioned it to Best Buy they told him it was too late and there was nothing they could do because Adam might be just making it up.
On February 3, 2009 for 264.79 I purchased an open box Sony Blu-Ray S550 and have been more than satisfied with the player for over 10 months now. This past weekend I was making some adjustments to the sound settings and went to resync the player my TV when I noticed that the front of the player says S350. I checked the original box from the purchase and it says S550, I then checked the manual for the item and it too said S550. I was unable to check the original receipt since I could not locate it, but am willing to bet that it said S550 as well.
I went to the store to speak with them about the issue and see if there was anything that could be done, I fully realize it has been 10 months but figured it was worth a shot. The manager of the home electronics department told me that there is nothing he can or will do about this since so much time has passed. I explained to him that I have no problem with returning the item and using the money towards towards the player I thought I was buying originally and paying the difference along with any discount he would be willing to give me.
He again stated that there is no way for him to look into the matter because of the amount of time.
I then asked him since he is unwilling to do anything about it, how something like this could have happened. He told me that although it is possible for the mistake to have occurred each open box sale is inspected by the Geek Squad and things like this do not occur very often and he is not going to be able to check what happened. I stated to him that this is somewhat of a common occurrence from the Geek Squad and that in the consumer world they do not have a very high confidence rating from people. He disagreed with me and said that the Geek Squad is in fact well regarded and has the highest marks in the industry for the work they perform.
Realizing this was not going to go anywhere I asked him once more if there is anything that he can do, he once again said no. I finally told him there is something he can do, he can believe his customer and use some rational thought that since it was this long after I obviously did not become aware of the situation till now and I also did not take the player out and bring it with me, I only wanted to talk with them about what might be possible and that this is why Best Buy is losing customers to other stores because whether it is 1 day, 1 month, or 1 year after the fact, Best Buy should try to work with their customers to be sure they are fully satisfied with any purchase.
His final words to me were "if we believed every person that came into the store with stories like this we would be out of business, because I have no way of looking into it and am not going to do anything about it."
With that I left the store vowing to never purchase anything other than a DVD from Best Buy or a low cost item.
Should I have checked the purchase at the time, absolutely, but I had never run in to an issue like this before and had purchased many items open box. I also refuse to believe that Best Buy could not scan the barcode on the box and see its history of original purchase and then return dates to check if it was done in a matter of days before I purchased it but he refused to investigate the issue at all.
I ended up paying more for a used Blu-Ray than it was selling for new at the time.
The lesson as always, check what you buy from them open box or anytime it says it was inspected by Geek Squad. Just to make myself feel better I sent off an EECB to Best Buy because if nothing else I wanted them to be aware that the store was having problems with its inspection of open box items.
In all fairness, there's probably a limit to what they can do for you, but the idea that nothing can be done is a little silly. Our readers have gotten $50 gift certificates because someone at Best Buy was rude to them — so we're certain that they could have offered you something in order to keep your business.
At this point, however, so many months down the road, your best bet might be to discuss this with your credit card company. We're not sure what they'll tell you, but it's worth a shot.
Adam is absolutely right of course, that the moral of this story is to always carefully check your packages when shopping at Best Buy. Here's a post that will help keep this from happening to you.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling for a probe of frequent flyer programs to determine whether they deliver the value that they promise. In particular, he wants the Department of Transportation to look into the issue of evaporating miles, a relatively new phenomenon brought introduced via expiration dates in recent years.
"As the holiday travel season approaches, we cannot let airlines and credit card companies continue to fly off with hard-earned frequent flier miles," Schumer said in an announcement scheduled for Sunday. "When a consumer accumulates valuable frequent flier miles, they should not have to constantly worry that they are going to expire with little or no notification from the airline."
Frequent flier model programs began 20 years ago, most with no expiration dates for the benefits. In the last decade, airlines have created three-year windows for consumers to use the miles, Schumer said.
The Air Transport Group, a industry trade group, defended its member companies by pointing out that "the system hasn't been targeted by regulators." Well, yeah. That's probably why Senator Schumer is raising the issue.
"It's time to probe frequent-flier accounts, senator says" [USA Today]
When I look at flight attendants I do not see mere mortals. I see heroic flying immune systems. When the zombificating superflu does eventually strike, those who survive will no doubt be ruled by former flight attendants and elementary school teachers. In the meantime, they'll somehow continue working in a "flying petri dish" as some airlines continue to refuse H1N1 as an excuse to rebook.
People are reluctant to pay a fee to keep others healthy. From CNN:
"When people come together, germs can come together too," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
"There are not that many studies about flu spreading on airplanes and trains, but anytime people are close together, there's a possibility of germs spreading."
So it may be unsettling to discover that 51 percent of respondents in a recent online poll by TripAdvisor.com would fly while sick with the flu rather than pay a flight rebooking fee. About 2,300 people took part in the survey.
Frequent fliers say the results are disturbing, but not surprising.
"I do think that's an unfortunate attitude, because the airplane is like a petri dish in the sky," said Rene Foss, a flight attendant for 25 years and the spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants.
"[But] people really are resistant to paying any extra fees."
Of the airlines CNN looked into, only Delta let people rebook non-changeable fares with a doctor's note.
The Motorola Droid is a sweet phone, but the box it comes in is a case study in bad package design. Where every other gadget these days comes in boxes with lids, or boxes designed to be opened in a specific manner, the Droid box can easily be opened so that the brand new phone falls to the floor.
I got my new Verizon Motorola Droid last week. But when I opened the box, the Droid fell to the floor. Apparently I had the box turned the wrong way. There is now a dent in my phone. It's not a major dent. The phone still works. But it's still not cool that because of a design flaw, I have to live with a damaged phone right from the get-go. I called Verizon to see if they would help, but they wouldn't do a thing. Since the phone is still in working condition, they would not replace it. I then inquired about that 30 day period where I could return the phone if I don't like it. She said that I could do that, but if the phone is physically damaged, I would be billed the full amount for the phone!!!
He also sent us a link to a Droid owners' forum, where he posted his story and found others who had experienced the same. Here are some sample comments from that thread.
This happened [to me] when the rep at the store opened it and I refused that one made him get me another.
This happened to me but the Verizon salesperson did it! It was Friday morning, her first droid sale ever and she opened the box upside down and the droid slammed into the side of the desk leaving little dents on each side of the screen.
This happened to me at the store when I bought it (actually before I bought it), and it hit the counter from about 2 inches high and proceeded towards the floor.
This happened to me too, but only 1-2" to my desk. Whoever put the box together is an idiot.
The customer rep did the same thing on mine!! luckily it just dropped on his keyboard
"WARNING for new Motorola Droid users!" [DroidForums.net]
Comments will be shut off at 4pm eastern today for maintenance.
Intrigued by a free delivery deal, Danielle ordered a dishwasher from Sears, but the retailer only reimbursed her $75 of the $81.19 fee.
Just wondering if you've heard of this.
I bought a dishwasher from Sears. They agreed to reimburse the $75 delivery fee since the item was over a certain amount. They charged me $75 plus $6.19 tax. I received the $75 but not the tax. Where does this "tax" money go? Shouldn't I be reimbursed for the total amount?
Hope you can assist. I would like to escalate but I don't know how much time I can give this for $6.
Danielle should contact Sears customer service and straighten this out. Has anyone else been overcharged for a so-called free service?
(Photo: Meg Marco)
Greg was replacing the speakers in his 2003 Camry and uncovered a stinky little tomb in the rear of the car. He thinks it must have happened at the plant, but I can't tell. Who wants to weigh in on whether the mouse tried to build a nest, or whether Toyota used mouse-enhanced stuffing on the assembly line? Oh, there are pics after the jump, but I made one of them less disturbing by adding a little sweater.
About a month ago I decided to upgrade my Toyota Camry 03 Speakers from stock to JBL speakers. To go about this was no easy task. After disconnecting and fitting the new tweeters (the speakers closest to the front windshield) and the door speakers. I go about taking out the back seats, rear sidings, and carpeting in order to reach the speakers in the rear. At first, I wonder about a strong mildew smell lingering back there as I go about this task.
As I reach for the harness on the right side I try to feel into some sort of insulation or stuffing in between the carpeting in the rear and plastic. Pulling out a chunk of stuffing to scour through feeling something like a harness, it made me question what I was holding. I see a dead mouse that I literally touched. I instantly dropped what I was holding and stood there in shock for a few minutes. You could say my heart raced and skipped as I grasp hold of what I just saw.
A dead mouse was the last thing I would expect to find in the rear of my car. The area the mouse was in could not be easily accessed and I believe there was no way it would have gotten in the years I have owned this car. The mouse was perfectly preserved, dried out, and hollow like one of those museum animals, yet it stunk. The area the mouse was in was more or less perfectly enclosed as no air circulation enters the area. Enclosed, I have images that are not for the faint of heart.
The odd thing is that the stuffing is only on the right side, there was none on the left side. I did remove all of the stuffing on the right side as it did not seem necessary to leave a putrid, foul pile of string and foam there. I still love my car despite this unfortunately find, the only explanation is from the Toyota factory in 2003 on the Toyota manufacturing line, a worker must have just grabbed a handful of insulation and stuck it in there not knowing there is a dead mouse among the stuffing. This has brought about the question whether in the future I should buy another Toyota Camry.
The fact that the stuffing is only on one side makes me wonder whether the mouse tried to build a nest, but the way the mouse is packed into the stuffing makes it look like they came pre-assembled. But then, why stuff only one side of the car?
Maybe you can ask Toyota to explain why the rear section would be stuffed that way, which will then at least help you determine whether the mouse was a factory add-on or an uninvited guest at some later point. Here's some contact info for Toyota:
Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America
25 Broadway, New York, NY
Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc
19001 S Western Ave Torrance, CA 90501-1196
I am contacting you regarding the order filled on 11/14/09. I am choosing to contact your company directly before deciding whether to report what happened to the Kentucky Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, and Consumerist/Consumer Reports.
This morning I went into the store in Murray, Kentucky to purchase a car charger for my new cell phone. While ringing up my order, the salesman/assistant manager (I believe named Dave) asked me if I would be interested in purchasing the service plan on the product, which I declined saying "It's just a few resistors." As he is ringing up my order, nothing else is discussed. I pay with my credit card, leave the store, look at my receipt and discover that this assistant manager has decided to add a $1 donation to Livestrong to my order without my knowledge or consent.
Is this some sort of new policy, or is this individual simply trying to inflate his/his store's metrics by assuming that customers won't look at their receipt and/or won't complain about involuntarily donating money to charity?
I look forward to your response.
Ryan says corporate got back to him and said he'd get the $1 refunded, but a week has passed and Radio Shack still hasn't parted with the pilfered Washington. It's a frustrating story with frightening implications, but at least Ryan can take comfort that the alleged theft is going to a good cause.
Has anyone else inadvertently donated to a charity?
Using a Viking helmet, her blog, and the dulcet sounds of her original Swedish folklore compositions, Freya Svensson is waging a war against Volvo, and winning.
Freya's been documenting on her blog her attempts to get Volvo to pay for her transmission. After this video went up, Bill Casey, the Manager of Customer Care at Volvo North America in New Jersey called her. He said Volvo was committed to working with her and getting to the bottom of the problem with her car and finding a solution. Bill also said he liked her hat.
Just goes to show that being a little creative and using online self-publishing techniques you can get an unresponsive company to listen to you. Now let's see if they live up to their word. No doubt Freya will keep us posted on her blog, RusmackedVolvo.com.
(Thanks to Chris!)
After a reader complained that a computer game he downloaded from Stardock was broken, company president and CEO Brad Wardell refunded the money but said the problem was probably caused by a fan-created patch.
We showed Wardell a forum that indicates Stardock was indeed selling a busted game, and he says he did some research, discovered the forum posters were correct, and now says the company will refund the purchases and make it sells the correct version.
The publisher continues to maintain that this is the latest version of the game and that it is working as intended. However, it is our determination that the users are correct and that when the game was re-released without Securom years ago through various channels that it triggered this issue.
We followed up with Enlight this morning with the option of having the game pulled from Impulse and its customers refunded or allowing us to integrate the fan made update that addresses this issue. Enlight gave us the green light to update the game on Impulse and we will then contact all its users to make sure they are aware of the update.
Should the Impulse staff have taken the issue higher up the chain? In hindsight, I would say yes. However, the problem here is that there are thousands of games and every forum has users claiming that a given game is "broken." Does that mean that this isn't a big screwup? Obviously it is.
On the one hand, you have a publisher saying that we have the latest version of their award-winning game that is working as intended and on the other hand a handful of posts in the forum having problems and that the game is working.
Impulse, like other retailers, assumes that the titles it receives work as designed. We put them through QA to make sure they run.
My contention is the problem here is that someone at Impulse or Stardock could have simply loaded up the game on Windows XP and seen if this was a legitimate issue or not. The counter, however, is that with thousands of games available, the publisher insisting after multiple queries that the game is fine and very few complaints that it is the role of the publisher or game developer to follow-up, not the retailer.
As we have seen with incidents like this on other services, this is going to be an on-going challenge with older titles. My view is that this incident demonstrates the need for older titles to get more scrutiny.
Kudos to Wardell for admitting his company's fault here and doing the right thing, even though it took some prodding.
Dave is the responsible roommate — the guy who volunteers to handle all the bills and finances for his pals.
The setup worked out great for a former roomie who ordered an extra Comcast cable box without Dave's permission, then skipped out of town, taking the box with her. Now Comcast wants blood. He writes:
Hello! I'm a long-time reader and thought you may be interested in my problems with Comcast. Maybe you know of a good customer service contact within the company that can resolve this for me. Or you may wish to inform your readers about my story.
I rent in Seattle with other roommates and I handle the bills. I opened an account with Comcast when I moved in for cable and Internet. Payments are made automatically and I am not sent a bill in the mail (there is one online, of course). I just noticed that there has been a $6.10 monthly charge on my account for an additional box since September 2008. (It is my fault for not catching this sooner, but that is not the point of this story.)
It seems that an old roommate contacted Comcast last September and got an additional box on her own, without my knowledge or consent. This roommate has been gone since April and she took the box with her. She left this house with arguments, unpaid bills, etc and is not returning my calls today.
I called Comcast twice today. Both customer service reps refused to refund any of the monthly $6.10 charges. For the ongoing fee to be removed (or to cancel my account), I will need to return the box or face a fine of $300. I have no way of contacting the old roommate, and I never gave Comcast the permission for her to modify my account.
Dave was defrauded and shouldn't be responsible for the payment. In addition to disputing the charge with Comcast he should alert the police.
Also, he'll probably be the first guy to tell you that if your roommates aren't responsible enough to assume some of the bills, it's not a great idea to cover for them by putting everything in your name.
Dave, the guy who get an online Pizza Hut coupon to work, is now an unofficial quality assurance freelancer for the corporation.
A Pizza Hut CSR asked us to forward her info to Dave, who contacted her and showed us the results:
We value you as a customer and appreciate your feedback about the website. We are extremely sorry that you had a bad experience with the website, and after looking into the issue, we found that there was a franchisee online menu problem. We immediately fixed this issue. We are currently in the process of making our website better for customers, and we thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.
If you would like to provide your mailing address, I would be happy to send you a $20 gift card in the hopes that you would try us again.
Please let me know if there is anything else that we can help you with.
Dave's go-round shows how enduring a trying situation can yield free pizza. Everyone wins here: Dave gets a gift card, Pizza Hut discovers a problem it didn't know about so it can fix it, and we get the email address of a hands-on CSR who gets things done (Alexa.Robinson@yum.com).