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How To Not Suck… At Last-Minute Christmas Gifting

Maybe you’re lazy. Or a procrastinator. Or a lazy procrastinator. We’re not judging because most of the time, that’s fine. But there are only a few sands left in the hourglass before Dec. 25th, and you’re left promising your loved ones that you’ll get them something really nice at one of the after-Christmas sale. Fear not. Consumerist is here to help in your time of need — so your family doesn’t think you don’t give a hoot.

First things first: The dollar store is your best friend in the time you have left, and not just as a place to score gifts on the cheap. It’s where you can get most of the supplies needed for the DIY ideas below (but not the vodka), saving you massive amounts of money, especially if you create these gifts in bulk.

If you’re not a DIY kinda person, no worries. We’ve got some easy suggestions for gifts you can still buy, and then add some quickie homemade flair — from the dollar store — so that it will look like you planned your gifts months ago. (Okay, maybe not months, but not five minutes ago, anyway.)

With all that out of the way, here are some ideas so you don’t suck at last-minute gifts.


Anything in a jar: Maybe you have a grandma or great-aunt who still makes her own jams, mustard, salsa, anthrax (okay, maybe not the anthrax). Lots of people don’t have that special family member anymore, but it’s hard to go wrong with a homemade treat. Start with some pretty jars from the dollar store, and earmark a couple of hours for prep work. If you make these gifts in bulk, you can drive down your time and costs.

Try some of these recipes: 30-minute jam, pickles, salsa, ketchup and mustard and hot sauce. If you’re not a foodie, here are some other great jar ideas.

Self-contained terrarium: We’re all busy these days, and that means it’s common for the plants in our lives to suffer. Fatally. My home is guilty, except for one plant, housed in a large, plastic Utz pretzel container. My kid brought it home six years ago after winning a classroom raffle at the end of first grade. It gets minimal direct light and we’ve never opened the screw top. Here are some strategies to make your own from and The Ecology Center.

Photo gifts: In these days of digital everything, lots of homes lack traditional printed photo albums. This is an easy one. E-mail or upload the photos you want to your local pharmacy superstore, office supply store or anyplace else that prints photos, and pick up a photo album at the dollar store or another retailer. Add photos and voila! Thoughtful present done. Or just as simple, print out a 5×7 or two and frame them (again, dollar store).

The gift of music: It’s not just for high-schoolers anymore. Create and burn a CD of someone’s favorite songs. This doesn’t have to be a romantic gift (though it could be). Think of a theme if that helps. If they like Christmas, make it holiday tunes. If you shared an island vacation together, go for some Bob Marley. If it’s for your parents, add delight from the year they got married or graduated from high school. If you have some extra cash, add a $10 gift card for iTunes, Google, Amazon or wherever they buy their music from and wrap it all together in a dollar store basket.

Memorialize a memory: Turn knick-knacks, photos, ticket stubs and other items into a personalized shadow box. Take memories from a special day you spent with your gift recipient and create a gift worth giving. For example, if you’ve spent days on the beach with your recipient, make a beach photo the centerpiece of a shadow box (um, dollar store), and glue in some sand and shells. Or for a concert, print a photo of the band, and add a ticket stub and other paraphernalia to a shadow box. Or for a grandparent or favorite uncle, take photos of the kids, and add a toy figurine, LEGO or the like and create the same. You can shadow box just about anything.

Make ugly sweaters into ugly pants: Take part in a frightening new trend — swants, or sweater pants. Yes, that’s right. You turn a sweater into pants. It’s the perfect gift for that relative who can’t seem to stop buying you all those sweaters for the holidays, or for anyone who could use warm legs. Even if you’re not handy with a sewing machine or needle and thread, you can pull this one off. In fact, we dare you. And please, send your photos to

Family cookbook: Collect your favorite family recipes and add them to a book. Use a handwritten notebook (yes, dollar store) or print them out and add them to a binder.

To get you started, here’s a new favorite for you: “Not Suck Chili,” courtesy of my mother-in-law.

1 lb. chopped meat

2 bottles Heinz Chili Sauce

1 small can tomato sauce

1 can Progresso red kidney beans

1 large onion

black pepper

hot pepper

bag o’ your favorite tortilla chips

white rice

Brown chopped meat in a pan. Drain oils (unless you like ‘em, like we do). Place browned meat into large pot. Add chili sauce and tomato sauce and stir. Simmer. Chop onion, not too fine, and add to the pot. Shake in black and hot pepper — 15 shakes each, or about 1 tsp. each, for you specific folks. Stir and simmer for 60 minutes. As you go, taste and add additional pepper(s) to taste. Cook white rice per box’s instructions. Rise beans, and stir them into the chili mix 10 minutes before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, and eat.

Other expertise: If you’re not a chef, you’re sure to have some talents your loved ones could benefit from. Create a guidebook, with photos (selfies work just fine) and step-by-step instructions for something you’re good at: plumbing or other home improvement tips, ironing, scanning a computer for viruses, saving money and budgeting — anything! You can add a subscription to a specialty magazine to match your topic, toss them together in a dollar store basket and you’re all done.

Family tree/history: Talk to your relatives and get the scoop on your family’s history, and create a family tree that can be framed and hung up. To go with it, write some stories your family will never want to forget: the time Uncle Bob got his tie stuck in the blender; the Thanksgiving when MaryLou dropped the hot bowl of mashed potatoes and they exploded all the way up to the ceiling (okay, I did that once); that unforgettable moment when Joey’s dog peed on the Christmas tree. Leave extra pages so the receiver of the gift can add more tales as time passes. Place it all in a (let’s say it together now!) dollar store basket with a few nice pens.

Homemade alcohol: Give a holiday de-stressor that packs a punch. Buy a few large bottles of your favorite vodka and infuse some flavor — your favorite fruity candy, mints, fruit or even — gasp! — bacon. You can do this in bulk, and add the spirits to smaller bottles from the dollar store. Try this guide on how to make your own distillery of sorts.


Movie night: Get some movie rental coupons or buy a few cheapie classic movies (you can get many online for under $10) and add to a dollar store basket with some microwave popcorn, maybe a bottle of wine or other beverage.

For tea or coffee lovers: Buy a few flavored teas or coffees, or both, and add to a basket with a mug or two. If you want to splurge for a coffee grinder — the simple ones go for as little as 10 bucks — buy beans instead of ground coffee.

Kid art: Ask your child to create a special painting or drawing for that special someone, then frame it for art, or laminate it as a placemat. Or, help your kid cut out and decorate some tall and skinny drawings, then have them laminated as bookmarks. If you’re splurging, add a book or two and create a reader’s basket.

Game night: Classic board games come pretty cheap. Buy a couple, or just one, and wrap together with a note remembering your favorite memories of playing the game with the receiver.

For travelers: If that special someone has a trip planned, put together a basket with essential travel items: a guidebook or history book about the destination, a travel alarm clock and a toiletry bag with small, carry-on-size-approved bottles for shampoo and other liquids.

Help the wanna-be: Create a basket of quality kitchen tools for someone who wants to be a better cook. Add in some potholders or kitchen towels. You can buy those and the basket at the dollar store, of course, but you may want to go slightly higher end for the kitchen tools.

For someone with a new home: Give them their junk drawer in a basket: small flashlight, batteries, screwdrivers of varying sizes, duct tape (you can never have too much duct tape, and you never know when it will come in handy), picture hooks, safety pins. Open up your junk drawer for some ideas.

Get girly, even for the guys: Fill a basket with some bubble bath, bath oils, a nail care kit, hand cream and the like. Don’t forget the good old loofa sponge.

For drivers: Put together an emergency kit so your loved ones are never stuck out on the road unprepared.

For your techie: A thumb drive and some writable DVDs and/or CDs. And of course, a dollar store basket.

Get puzzled: Put together a basket of crossword puzzle and Sudoku books, and get a little retro by adding Mad Libs.

For… well, anyone: Buy a few shot glasses and choose a bunch of mini-liquor bottles. Toss them in a dollar store basket and hope your receiver wants to share after they open it.

What are your quick and cheap last-minute gift ideas? Leave a comment or write us at and share the wealth!

Have a topic you’d like to see covered in How To Not Suck? Or maybe you’re an expert who would like to share your insight with Consumerist readers? Send us a note at

You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.


How To Not Suck… At Saving For The Holidays

How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving

How To Not Suck… At Disputing Credit Report Errors

How To Not Suck… At Lowering Your Utility Bills

How To Not Suck… At Home Inspections

How To Not Suck… At Understanding Credit Card Rewards

How To Not Suck… At Getting Ready For Tax Season

How To Not Suck… At Picking A Retirement Plan

How To Not Suck… At Deciding When To DIY

How To Not Suck… At Getting Out Of Debt

How To Not Suck… At First Year College Budgets

DISCLAIMER: Any websites, services, retailers, or brands mentioned in the story above are only intended as some of many options available to consumers, and do not constitute an endorsement by Consumerist, Consumerist Media LLC (CML) or its staff. Per Consumerist’s No Commercial Use Policy, such information may not be used by others in advertising or to promote a company’s product or service. In addition, this policy precludes any commercial use of any of CML’s published information in any form, or of the names of Consumers Union®, Consumer Media, Consumer Reports®, The Consumerist, or any other of CU or CML’s publications or services without CU or CML’s express written permission.

by Karin Price Mueller via Consumerist

If You Were Ever A Teenage Boy, You Know This Amazon Review For Tissues Speaks The Truth

Ah, satire. You might not be the honest to goodness truth when it comes down to it, but at the same time you are often more honest than the alternative. To wit: A review for Kleenex Facial Tissues entitled “A Mother’s Struggle” might be written by an actual mother of three teenage boys, but it will cut you to the quick with its realness.

While I’ve never been a teenage boy (I did grow up with three brothers, so I’m not unfamiliar with their kind) it’s not too difficult to imagine the very real pain a mother might experience at having to keep her home supplied with tissues.

We’re just gonna let this Amazon review by Top 1,000 reviewer (and children’s author) James O. Thach speak for itself. It just popped up on Reddit, where it bounced over from

“I want to start this off by thanking Kleenex for selling these in 36-packs. I’ve put it on subscription, and if they want to start selling a 72-pack, sign me up. I have three reasons for needing this much Kleenex, and their names are Liam, Samuel and Hank,” writes the struggling “mom,” who adds that the Kleenex is the first to go, followed by toilet paper and inevitably, fabrics.

“And you don’t want it to get there, unless you’re ready to invest in a five gallon drum of Fabreeze,” she notes.

Wait… is she talking about — Yes. There you go. You’ve got the gist.

“This used to be a good Christian home. But it’s not about moral judgment anymore. I’m way beyond that,” laments the reviewer, who, of course, at one point was actually once a teenage boy. “I’m in survival mode. If I don’t supply absorbent paper products, I’m going to find my dish towels hidden in the basement, stiff as aluminum. The other day, I almost cut my hand on a sock. I am sorry to speak so frankly, but with three teenage boys, a woman has got to be practical.”

Satirical Amazon reviews: Providing a voice for fictional parents everywhere since [insert year someone first thought to write a satirical Amazon review].

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Factores que afectan al aprendizaje #infografia #infographic #education

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The 10 Colleges That Received The Biggest Payouts From Credit Card Issuers Last Year

Last year, a group of around 15 credit card issuers paid a total of more than $50 million to various schools and school-affiliated organizations in order to market credit cards to people at those educational institutions. Around 70% of that money came from a single Bank of America-owned credit card company, and though hundreds of schools received some sort of payment for helping introduce cards to college students, just the 10 largest single payments account for nearly 30% of the $50 million.

This is all according to a recent report [PDF] from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which, and mandated by the CARD Act of 2009, has been looking into the too-cozy relationship between financial service companies and schools.

Even though the CARD Act put restrictions on credit card companies’ ability to market directly to college students — which appears to have resulted in an overall drop in the amount of credit card borrowing by student — the report still found that in 2012, one credit card issuer, FIA Card Services, had 412 deals in place with schools and affiliated organizations (especially alumni associations) and paid out a total of nearly $35.6 million to those groups. That’s more than six times the total paid out by Chase, the issuer that handed over the second-largest pile of cash ($5.855 million) to colleges.

While you may not know the name of FIA Card Services, you probably remember it when it was called MBNA, and you definitely know its parent company, Bank of America.

While most of these arrangements used to be made directly between a card issuer and a school, that has changed in recent years, with alumni associations now representing the majority of paid arrangements with credit card companies.

Though this CFPB report does not explain the reason for this shift, it is most likely due to the marketing limitations put in place by the CARD Act that took away many of the questionable marketing tools card issuers had used to get students hooked on credit. A Sept. 2013 report [PDF] from CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman (and Consumerist pal) Rohit Chopra details how financial institutions are now moving away from pushing credit cards on students and toward financial products like checking accounts and debit cards.

At the same time, card issuers are choosing to deal with alumni associations instead of directly with the schools. By offering credit products through an alumni association or other affiliated organization, the card company can still leverage a university’s brand and reach both current students (though not as easily) and alumni.

Which may explain why the two largest single payments ($2.74 million from FIA to the Penn State Alumni Assoc., and $1.8 million from FIA to the Alumni Assoc. for the University of Michigan) are to two universities with a huge and very dedicated alumni base.

Penn State also accounted for the largest number of accounts for any organization, with more than 60,000 at the end of 2012, nearly double the number of accounts tied to Michigan.

The highest amount paid from a credit card issuer directly to a school was the $1.5 million paid to the University of Southern California by… you guessed it, FIA Card Services, followed by the $1.43 million FIA paid to the University of Tennessee.

Here are the top 10 payouts to colleges and affiliated organizations from 2012. At the bottom of the post is a sortable worksheet showing data for all schools that received payments from card issuers (which can also be accessed here).

1. Penn State Alumni Association: $2,742,743 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

2. Alumni Association of the University of Michigan: $1,800,000 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

3. University of Southern California: $1,505,550 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

4. University of Tennessee: $1,428,571 from Chase Bank USA, N.A.

5. California Alumni Association (Berkeley): $1,353,450 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

6. General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: $1,250,000 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

7. Association of Former Students of Texas A&M University: $1,209,702 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

8. The University of Georgia Foundation: $1,157,737 from FIA Card Services, N.A.

9. Yale University: $1,140,000 from Chase Bank USA, N.A.

10. Boston College: $1,100,000 from GE Capital Retail Bank

The full data set for 2012:

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

¿Sabes que es la Deep Web? #infografia #infographic #internet

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Joomla en Nicaragua #infografia #infographic #internet

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Emprendedoras en Latinoamérica #infografia #infographic #entrepreneurship

Hola: Una infografía sobre emprendedoras en Latinoamérica. Vía Un saludo

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Cómo pasar de 0 a 10.000 visitas al mes #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre cómo pasar de 0 a 10.000 visitas al mes. Un saludo

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Man’s Ad Convinces Nissan To Buy Clunker “Fully Loaded With An Engine, Wheels, Tires”

It ain’t easy selling off an old jalopy, as many car owners know. But apparently all you need is a crisp British narration, some creative camera work and lines about how a 17-year-old Nissan Maxima will “get you from point A to B … most of the time” to sell a car… back to the company that made it.

The car’s owner posted his homemade ad on YouTube back in September and since then it’s been quite the popular bit of Internet fodder (anyone else sick of the “V” word that rhymes with spiral?), notes AdWeek’s AdFreak blog.

After spending “17 years in monumental perfection,” Nissan USA will now be the proud owner of this 1996 sedan that comes “fully loaded with an engine, wheels, tires and an automatic transmission.”

An additional print ad the car’s owner did suggested that the vehicle would probably not be stolen from “a dark parking lot in Modesto” because other cars would be more attractive targets, while a Craigslist ad bragged that “this pavement yacht has a ride as smooth as Pegasus’ backside.”

Nissan USA bought his old ride for $1,400 this week, as well as donating another $1,000 to the charity of his choice.

Now, to start working on ad that will convince someone to haul my old crappy desk to the curb and pay me for that pleasure so I can buy a new one.

This Homemade Ad for a ’96 Maxima Was So Incredible, Nissan Bought the Car From the Guy [AdFreak]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Why Anyone Would Send Texts Via Perfectly Drinkable Vodka Is Unclear — But Hey, Science

We’ve heard of sending text messages while using vodka (and we do not recommend it, unless you love feeling stupid the next day) and boozy breath in your face sends quite another very clear message. But actually using vodka in its evaporated form to send a text message? That just sounds wacky. Oh, hello, wacky scientists.

Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK and Canada’s York University (published in PLOS One) are less concerned with the kind of texting you do with your phone to tell your roommate to put pants on because you’re on your way home, and more interested in seeing how they could use molecules of alcohol to transmit messages and data.

It’s a lot like how animals and plants send info using molecular signaling, explains the UPI. The scientists worked out a way to make binary signals out of any other kind of signal, then program molecules of evaporated vodka to send those signals.

“We believe we have sent the world’s first text message to be transmitted entirely with molecular communication, controlling concentration levels of the alcohol molecules, to encode the alphabets with single spray representing bit 1 and no spray representing the bit 0,” said the lead researcher.

The researchers tried this system out with a transmission of “O Canada,” being in that country and all. They sent the song a few meters before a receiver grabbed it and decoded it. The devices used in that test were made from products you can buy at an electronics store for about $100, so this wouldn’t even have to be a sophisticated piece of equipment.

This technology could be useful in places where using a phone or radios isn’t the easiest, like in underground tunnels and pipelines. Sending a waft of vapor with a message about mucked up sewage lines or other important news could work in those situations, researchers say.

Meanwhile this does not excuse the awful booze breath that one coworker exudes during every holiday party, so make sure to stay far from her/him and the mistletoe.

Check out a video of the vodka text test below:

‘Text messages’ sent using evaporated vodka []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

How To Determine If That Comcast Tech At Your Door Is The Real Deal

Even in these cynical times, most of us want to trust our fellow humans and try to give them the benefit of a doubt. So when someone from the cable company knocks on your door when you’re not expecting it, your instinct might be to believe that he’s not lying. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

KKTV in Colorado Springs reports on a local couple who were at home when someone claiming to be a Comcast tech knocked on their door.

“He said that he needed to check the wiring for a job that was recently done on the house, and I wasn’t sure what he was talking about,” the husband says about the man at his door.

His wife then suggested to her husband that he ask for the supposed Comcast contractor’s ID, so the husband walked around to the side of the house where the clipboard-carrying man was peering over a locked fence.

“I said, by any chance do you have any ID? And he said no,” recalls the husband. “I asked him for his name and he said, ‘Well I’ll just come back some other time.’”

The couple then called Comcast, which said that it had no record of anyone being dispatched to that house. The couple says that the suspicious man was driving a van with the name of a company that Comcast does indeed do work for the cable company, but KKTV could not get an official response from that contractor.

We’ve written before about scammers and criminals pretending to be employees of various companies in order to illegally gain access to customers’ homes. In 2011, criminals in Maryland posed as workers for a local utility company to steal thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from multiple victims.

If someone shows up at your door claiming to be from Comcast — or any utility/cable/satellite/whatever company — and you’re not expecting them, here are the steps you should take to verify their identity.

1. Don’t be fooled by a shirt and a clipboard. Ask to see some sort of photo ID that shows this person works for the company they claim to work for. If you’re very suspicious, you may want to ask to see both the company photo ID and a state-issued ID to make sure the names match.

2. Ask to see a work order or some other documentation showing that this person needs to be there, and specifically that he/she needs access to your property.

3. Contact the company to verify this information. An ID and paperwork can be faked. It’s much more complicated to also make sure that someone at the company’s dispatch is in on the ruse. And make sure that you are the one who is calling the company to verify this information. The tech may offer to call a dispatcher from his phone, but you have no way of knowing if he’s dialing the company or just calling a pal.

4. If you are unable to verify all of this information, tell the tech he will have to come back at a time when the info can be confirmed. We’re not talking about putting out fires or dealing with a medical emergency here.

You may feel like it’s going overboard to require all of this proof to just let a cable tech onto your property, but think of how many times you have to answer the same stupid ID-verification questions every time you get bounced around Comcast’s customer service. If a company is going to demand proof that you are who you say you are, there’s no reason its employees shouldn’t be held to the same standard when they show up on your doorstep unannounced.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

3 Things To Consider Before Signing Up For A Store Credit Card

As you make your way through the final days of this holiday shopping season, you will undoubtedly be asked on numerous occasions if you would like to save money on your purchase by signing up for a store credit card. It’s definitely tempting, but you need to be aware of just what you’re signing up for in order to get that discount.

Over at, Stacy Johnson looks at the pros and cons of store credit cards, but here are the basic questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Is a 10% discount really worth the risk of a 25-30% interest rate?

Most store card offers give the customer an immediate discount (say 10-15%) off his first purchase, but they also tend to come with sky-high interest rates, sometimes as high as 30%.

If you’re just using the card the one time to make that one purchase and you pay the card off in full in a very short period of time (and you don’t make any additional purchases), you end up getting all or most of that initial discount. Each month the card account isn’t paid in full is another chip of the chisel on that 10% you saved at the point of purchase.

Even though it’s what the store and the card issuer are banking on, these high-interest cards really shouldn’t be used for purchases where there isn’t a deep discount for using the card.

One concern not mentioned in the MoneyTalksNews story is that several store credit cards offer tempting, but potentially dangerous, deferred-interest plans, that lure the customer in with a no-interest or low-interest introductory period. The poisonous core of these deferred-interest cards is exposed when the cardholder fails to pay off that purchase in full by the end of the intro period, and is then hit with all of the interest for the full value of the initial purchase.

So say you used a deferred-interest card to buy a $2,000 washer and have 12 months to pay it off. If that 12-month intro period ends and you still have $50 left to pay off, you are charged the interest (again, often at 20-30% APR) not on the $50 balance, but on the $2,000. Suddenly what had been a great financing deal for you is a better deal for the retailer.

2. Will I Ever Use the Card Again?

Maybe that store charge card doesn’t come loaded with sky-high interest rates; not all of them do. Even so, can the card be used elsewhere? While some store credit cards are really just store-branded Visa/MasterCard/AmEx cards, meaning they can be used anywhere those cards are accepted, many store cards are only for use at that particular retailer. They also tend to have very low initial credit limits, so even when you have the ability to shop elsewhere, you might be limited as to your spending ability.

Some store-only cards do carry perks, like rewards points and discounts, to make up for the lack of flexibility. But if they don’t — or if these rewards also come with the aforementioned risk of high interest rates — you’d probably be better off just using the boring old credit card you already have.

3. What Will This Do To My Credit?

For people with minimal credit history, or one that needs a bit of tidying up, a store credit card could help (notice we don’t say it will help) if used properly.

Since these cards often have low spending limits, consumers with credit history issues sometimes stand a better chance at getting a store card than they would when applying for a traditional credit card. That said, it is up to the cardholder to spend responsibly and pay off his debt in a timely manner if he wants to improve his creditworthiness. In the hands of a careless consumer, even a small-limit store card can do significant damage if the balance goes unpaid.

Those consumers who have decent credit histories should be aware that all credit card applications will ding their credit scores in the short run, so if you’re looking to apply for a mortgage or other loan in the immediate future, you may want to avoid anything that could shave even a few points from your score if you don’t need it.

Another issue is having too much available credit. “When reviewing loan applications, creditors not only consider how much debt you have but also how much existing credit is available to you,” explains Johnson. “If you already have enough credit to go on a $20,000 spending bender, lenders might be hesitant to give you access to more cash.”

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Look On The Bright Side, Target: At Least These 3 Credit Card Hacks Were Bigger Than Yours

Target is probably having a very unmerry holiday season right now dealing with the credit card breach that likely affected about 40 million accounts. Target might be the retail version of a sad Charlie Brown at Christmas right now, but hey, it could be worse. No, really.

CNNMoney goes through five big breaches that make Target’s hack look like a drop in the bucket. Of course, any time consumers see their personal information leaking out to who knows where it’s bad. But the below three have numbers that eclipse Target’s latest worry.

Adobe: About 150 million customers were hit by hackers this fall, although at first Adobe had the number at about 2.9 millionand then 38 million. It wasn’t until a security blog claimed that hackers had actually published info for 150 million of Adobe’s customers that the ginormous scale of the hack came to light. Adobe sticks by its original number, however.

Heartland Payment Systems: A widespread attack on this company affected 130 million customers with a variety of different credit cards. The company ended up paying out more than $110 million to settle claims with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and others.

TJX Companies: Way back in 2007, this hack hit a laundry list of TJX stores — T.J. Maxx and Marshalls included — which stung around 94 million shoppers. Initially the company said 46 million customers were hacked, but later court filings related to bank lawsuits aimed at TJX showed the much higher total.

Sadly enough, we’re sure this won’t be the last time dastardly villains get their hands on private information. Remember that if you think your credit info is at risk to keep checking your statements, call your bank or credit card issuer (in the most recent case, Target) and change any PINs or passwords associated with the account.

Of all the Charlie Browns in the world right now, Target, you’re the Charlie Browniest.

5 of the biggest-ever credit card hacks [CNNMoney]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Ally Bank To Pay $98 Million For Charging Higher Interest To Non-White Borrowers

ally-bank-logo Earlier today, the Justice Dept. and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced the largest auto loan discrimination settlement in U.S. history with the news that Ally Bank has agreed to pay $98 million, including $80 million in refunds to settle allegations that it has been charging higher interest rates to minority borrowers of car loans.

Ally provides what are known as “indirect” auto loans to consumers, meaning it provides auto dealerships with loans at a set, risk-based interest rate and then allows the dealerships to add on a “dealer markup,” which can then be split between the dealership and Ally.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits creditors from discriminating against loan applicants on the basis of categories like race and national origin.

In Sept. 2012, the CFPB says it began checking to see if Ally was in compliance with ECOA standards. This eventually led to a joint investigation with the DOJ, which concluded that Ally violated the law by charging African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers higher dealer markups for their auto loans than similarly-situated non-Hispanic white borrowers. In total, some 235,000 borrowers paid higher interest rates than they should have.

According to the terms of the settlement [PDF], Ally must…

• Pay $80 million in refunds to harmed African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers whose auto loans were purchased by Ally between April 2011 and December 2013.

• Pay an additional $18 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

• Pay for the costs of a settlement administrator to distribute funds to victims.

• Monitor dealer markups to prevent future discrimination or eliminate dealer markups altogether.

The regulators warn Ally that continued use of a program that uses dealer markups may lead to annual payouts to borrowers whose loans are not in compliance with ECOA. The bank can avoid the constant monitoring by ditching the system, which the CFPB believes may encourage some dealers to charge discriminatory prices to maximize the markup.

The CFPB has already told all indirect auto lenders that they will be accountable for discriminatory pricing by dealers.

“Discrimination is a serious issue across every consumer credit market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are returning $80 million to hard-working consumers who paid more for their cars or trucks based on their race or national origin.”

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Flashing A Gun To Get A Job Application At McDonald’s Won’t Make You An Ideal Choice

Without a doubt, if you really want to get a job, you should employ your full arsenal — of professional experience, pleasing people manners and other ideal qualities. And not, as one man allegedly did, employ your actual arsenal with real weapons.

Police in Norfolk, Va. say a man who wanted to get a job at McDonald’s flashed a gun at workers in his attempt to get hired, reports

According to the report, the 31-year-old man walked into a McDonald’s and asked a manager for an application. So far, so good! But when the manager told him that they only had applications online, and clarified that policy a second time, that’s when police say he allegedly lifted his shirt to show the gun he had stowed in his waistband.

The manager remained calm, cool and collected, it seems, inviting the man to take a seat while she went to fetch a paper application. Instead, she called the police.

When officers arrived the would-be applicant was sitting at a table and was arrested, and charged with the misdemeanors of brandishing a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.

Yes, it can be hard to get a job. But it’s harder to get a job if you’re demanding things with a gun.

PD: Man with gun demanded job application []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Does Dish Also Have Lust In Its Heart For T-Mobile?

tmodish Last week’s big news in the wireless world was a report that Sprint was making googoo eyes at T-Mobile and dreaming dreams of wedded bliss. But, as always seems to happen in great romantic comedies, there’s now rumors of a new suitor from the other side of town.

According to the romance writers at Reuters, Dish is standing in the corner of the room in its leather jacket, quietly sipping from a bottle of pop and trying not to show its obvious interest in riding off with T-Mobile sitting in the sidecar of its motorcycle.

Of course, Dish may still be stinging from the heartbreak of earlier this year, when it poured its heart out to Sprint, standing outside the wireless company’s window with a boom box over its head, only to watch through tear-filled eyes as Sprint entered into an intimate arrangement with Japanese telecom Softbank.

So in hopes of proving that its intentions are honest, Reuters hears that Dish has already spoken with T-Mobile’s parents at Deutsche Telekom, who have been desperately trying to foist their American child off on any suitor willing to pay.

A marriage of T-Mobile and Dish may not be such a crazy, kooky idea.

In a market dominated by two companies, T-Mobile could use the support from a spouse that isn’t just looking to absorb its subscriber base into theirs. Not having to constantly worry about being edged out of the market by Verizon and AT&T could allow T-Mobile to remain in the wireless business, where it has been a generally positive disruptive presence since being left at the altar by AT&T a couple years back. Dish also owns wireless spectrum that it’s really not doing much with and which would be better used by a company like T-Mobile.

Meanwhile, even though Dish — the second-largest satellite provider in the U.S. — is larger than many cable companies, it does not offer the same terrestrial broadband service that most cable companies provide to subscribers. So when a cord-cutter gets rid of her cable TV package, she’s still (usually) getting Internet access from that cable provider. But if she kills her Dish subscription, that’s likely the end of her relationship with the satellite company.

A Dish/T-Mobile union might also have an easier time getting the blessing of the regulators at the FCC and Justice Dept., both of whom did their best to keep T-Mobile and AT&T from eloping. Compared to a possible Sprint/T-Mobile tie-up, which would remove a major competitor from the national wireless market and leave consumers with only three nationwide providers, a satellite/wireless deal would keep T-Mobile in play as a competitor and would probably not set off any alarm bells in terms of cable antitrust concerns (unlike Comcast’s rumored interest in Time Warner Cable).

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Overturned Semi Sends 40,000 Pounds Of Holiday Ham Rolling Into Traffic

This ham salutes its fallen brethren. (jpmarth)

This ham salutes its fallen brethren. (jpmarth)

It must be a very stressful situation to be in charge of ferrying precious cargo from here to there, especially when it’s say, bottled beer or cheese, or other things people are looking forward to consuming. Which makes this holiday ham spill in Georgia especially upsetting — with 40,000 pounds of ham jamming up the highway, will there be a Christmas meat shortage? Perish the thought.

Gotta give full “ham jam” credit to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which was on the case of the meat spill on an interstate ramp in Fulton County, Ga.

A tractor-trailer on its way to Texas with its holiday load overturned about 4 a.m. on the ramp, spilling diesel fuel and hams onto the road. The drier wasn’t seriously injured, but the cab of the truck was destroyed. There’s no word on the condition of the pork.

“I didn’t see no signs that there was a curve,” said truck driver. “Going 40 mph and trying to find the turnoff to 85 and when I saw the arrows, I tried to brake.”

The ham blockage kept the ramp closed for hours yesterday morning, which would be a total headache for your morning commute… Unless someone handed you a free ham.

Ham jam closes south Fulton interstate ramp [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

More Shoppers Concerned About Getting Fat During The Holidays Than They Are About Going Into Debt

For many Americans, the last two months of every calendar year inevitably involve eating too much and spending a lot of money. Given the still-choppy economic waters, you might think that consumers would be more concerned about their bottom lines before thinking about their waistlines, but you’d be wrong.

At least according to the 1,500 respondents to Consumer Reports’ latest survey on holiday stresses and gripes, which found that 34% of Americans dread the putting on of pounds that could result from too many holiday parties with platters of rich foods, along with a decline in outdoor activity as the temperature drops.

Meanwhile, only 31% of respondents say they dread the debt that comes from all the spending during these climactic weeks. After all, even if you buy all your gifts long in advance, there are still costs like decorations, food (especially if you’re hosting family and other guests), tacky sweaters, and things like airfare and gas for those who are traveling.

Of course, neither weight gain nor debt topped the list of holiday complaints. That dishonor belonged to an all-time classic: Crowds and long lines, selected by 61% of respondents.

In fact, all three of the most-dreaded holiday issues involve being around just too many people WHO WON’T STOP BUMPING MY FRIGGIN’ CART WHY CAN’T THEY JUST LOOK WHERE THEY ARE GOING… with 54% of people hating the bad traffic that clogs the streets around this nation’s shopping centers, and 48% sick of all those people who lose their minds when driving through crowded parking lots.

There is some good news from the survey: For all we fret about buying the right gifts for our loved ones, only 12% of respondents say they are concerned about being let down by disappointing gifts.

You can check out the entire survey here.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Verizon Says It Will Publish Reports On Law Enforcement Requests For Phone Records

In the ongoing brouhaha over the National Security Agency’s data-collecting, Verizon announced last night that it will publish information about how many requests it received from various law enforcement agencies this year for customer records.

The reports will be ready for the public early next year online, and Verizon will update it twice a year from then on, reports the Associated Press. Included in the reports will be how many requests Verizon received from law enforcement in criminal cases.

It’ll then break that down into which requests included subpoenas, court orders and warrants, as well as other details about the requests.

“The aim of our transparency report is to keep our customers informed about government requests for their data and how we respond to those requests,” Randal Milch, Verizon’s executive vice president for public policy, said in a statement.

Verizon joins other big cheeses in the communications world, including Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, which also issue reports from time to time about what the authorities are looking for concerning personal data.

This info is limited to your run-of-the-mill issues — none of those reports include orders sent through the government’s secret court, which works under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to fight terrorism

AT&T recently said it didn’t have to disclose to shareholders what it’s done with customers’ data, so will it be joining in the report fun now that Verizon is at the party?

“While we have disclosed a lot of information in this area, we are always exploring ways to do more,” an AT&T spokesman said when asked that very question.

Verizon to publish data on phone records requests [Associated Press]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Driving Backwards Through A Taco Bell Drive-Thru Might Give Police A Reason To Search Your Car

If you’ve got drugs in your car, you probably don’t want to do very much to draw the attention of the authorities. Just ask the Pennsylvania man who was arrested for marijuana possession after police watched him drive backwards while trying to order food from the Taco Bell drive-thru.

According to, police officers in Silver Spring Township, PA, watched as the 18-year-old drove his car in reverse to the cashier’s window at the fast food joint.

So they pulled the young man over and searched his car, which allegedly contained a small amount of marijuana. Police charged the driver with possession, along with a disorderly conduct charge for the backwards-driving antics. No mention of a DWI charge, so it’s possible this guy was completely sober and just making a stupid decision that landed him in custody and, presumably, without his to-go order.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

NYC Adds E-Cigarettes To The List Of Things You Can’t Smoke In Many Public Places

Make that "No Vaping" in NYC, too. (Eva_Deht)

Make that “No Vaping” in NYC, too. (Eva_Deht)

New York City has had a strict ban on smoking in many public places like bars, restaurants, workplaces, stores and since 2002, with the addition of parks and public plazas in 2011. But even if that smoke isn’t really smoke, and is vapor from an e-cigarette, well now you can’t do that either, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped push a measure through the city council that extends the smoking ban to e-cigs.

The New York City Council passed the measure in a 43-8 vote in the last council meeting of 2013, perfect timing for the outgoing Mayor Bloomberg. If his critics called his a nanny administration before, well, at least he went out with a consistent bang?

The ban will likely be signed into law by Bloomberg, notes the Wall Street Journal, which is sure to hit the e-cigarette industry pretty hard in the city. The cigs don’t really emit a smoke, just a nicotine-laced liquid that goes into and out of the lungs as a vapor. Which makes this an anti-vaping measure, instead of anti-smoking.

NYC could soon be joined by cities like Los Angeles and Chicago as soon as January, as both cities are mulling over similar bans.

Supporters of e-cigarettes say the devices are less harmful than regular smokes, which makes them a useful tool to wean people off smoking, so taking those tools away could prevent that.

Those on the other side don’t think it’s enough to just be not as bad as cigarettes and that secondhand vapor is also a negative, while the nicotine will turn non-smokers into smokers.

“We’re grateful that New Yorkers will not be exposed to potentially unsafe secondhand emissions from electronic cigarettes,” said the head of the American Lung Association in the Northeast, in a statement.

It’s quite a blow to the makers of e-cigarettes, who are chiming in with their disappointment. The president of Logic Technology, which is a big player in the e-cig market, said the NYC ban doesn’t take the science into accounts.

“It’s really unfortunate. I find their line of reasoning flawed,” he told the WSJ. “It’s not based on science and there’s no foundation for this.”

New York City Extends Smoking Ban to E-Cigarettes [Wall Street Journal]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist