Archive for October, 2011

Wireless users to get warnings on overages

Say good-bye to bill shock.

Your days of overages may be over.

And if not, you won’t be able to say you didn’t have fair warning.

Wireless users  nearing their monthly limit for voice, text or data services will receive alerts when they are in danger of being charged extra, thanks to an agreement between  carriers and the Federal Communications Commission to be announced today, The New York Times reports.

Carriers have resisted such demands, but finally agreed. That should be good news for all of us who tend to exceed our limits and have to pay sometimes-whopping fees.

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Walmart kicks off holiday layaways Monday

Years ago, layaway was the way to go. Now Walmart is joining competitors in bringing the concept back for the holidays, beginning Monday.

See an item you want for Christmas? The world’s largest retailer will store the merchandise away for you for 10 percent down and a $5 service fee, and you make payments on the product until it’s paid off.

The total purchase must be over $50 and each item must be at least $15. The promotion doesn’t include online purchases, and all items must be purchased by Dec. 16.

Walmart’s fine print also says the layaway plan does not include Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving, and customers may face cancellation fees.

Walmart joins Sears and Kmart, which are owned by the same company, Best Buy, Toys R Us, TJ Maxx/Marshall’s, Burlington Coat Factory and others in offering the service.

A report on Moneyland.Time.com tries to answer the question: Is layaway “worse than using a credit card?”

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Chocolate chip cookies recalled in Georgia

Georgia is among four states involved in a chocolate chip cookie recall.

Murray Biscut Co., a subsidiary of Kellogg Co., says the sugar-free cookies with pecans were mistakenly put in 5.5-ounce packages that don’t list pecans as an ingredient, the Associated Press reports.

The cookies can be potentially harmful to people who are allergic to pecans. Murray said no illnesses or allergic reactions have been reported.

Despite only 12 cases  labeled incorrectly, the company is recalling 904 cases, according to AP.

In addition to Georgia, the cookies were shipped to retailers in in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. They have a UPC code of 82011 91335 and a “best if used by” date of April, 17, 2012.

Christopher Seward

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Retailers hiring the most holiday workers

Looking for a job for the upcoming the holiday season?

While retailers’ hiring plans may be the same as a year ago, 24/7 Wall St. has come out with a new list of employers who will be hiring the most workers, possibly aiding your chances of finding a spot.

Potential applicants, however, should keep in mind that seasonal workers are hired for several reasons.

“They are cheap, often earning $8 to $10 per hour, and are willing to work odd hours,” the 24/7 Wall St. report says. “This enables retailers to satisfy increased demands without adding a permanent expense to their bottom line.”

Because a ton of people will apply, employers also get a larger pool from which to select top-performing workers for permanent positions.

With that in mind, the employers hiring the most workers and the number of planned hires include Target (92,000-plus), Macy’s (78,000), Toys R Us (40,000), Kohl’s (40,000), JCPenney (35,000), ) Best Buy (15,000) and Party City (14,000-plus).

24/7 Wall …

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The 25 percent tip — too much?

Everyone’s trying to make an extra buck in this economy. Waiters in San Francisco restaurants have come up with their way. According to a Drudge Report post, they propose an automatic tip of 25 percent on the tab. That’s twenty-five percent. Standard. Well above the usual 15-20 percent. Trends, it’s said, tend to start on the coast and move inland. Will this one hit Atlanta?

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Trouble in the iCloud

Apple rolled out its new iCloud service and latest mobile software this week. The reviews were not all positive, as this Reuters report notes. There were email access problems and installation delays.

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Jobs are out there, unlike skilled workers

On the one hand, 14 million Americans are looking for a job. On the other, there are thousands of job openings just waiting for qualified applicants.

What gives?

According to a Reuters report, the problem is that many Americans looking for work aren’t skilled enough for the available positions.

Reuters cites a Manpower survey that found 52 percent of U.S. employers say they have a hard time finding qualified people to fill critical positions, up from 14 percent just last year.

A large chunk of the openings are in skilled trades, Internet technology, engineering, sales and machine operation.

Siemens Corp., for example, has 3,000 job openings, but more than half require science, technology, engineering and math-related skills, areas that are in decline among college graduates.

Adding to the frustration is that as baby boomers – many of whom are trying to hold on to a job as long as they can – approach retirement, fewer skilled workers are there to fill the void.

Top …

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PlayStation hackers, Bravia TVs causing Sony headaches

Sony Corp. found itself with potential PR nightmares across the board Thursday, from its PlayStation Network to its popular Bravia flat-screen TV line.

The company moved to lock the accounts of nearly 100,000 customers on its PlayStation Network, Sony Entertainment Network and Sony Online Entertainment service because hackers were able to access IDs and passwords.

The company, which was reportedly tipped off because it noticed a spike in unauthorized attempts to log into the accounts, said customers’ credit cards were not compromised.

It’s the second time this year the PlayStation Network has suffered a security breach. It had to shut down for a month in April after the accounts of more than 100 million users were breached.

The Japanese electronics products giant also is recalling 1.6 million Bravia flat-screen TVs sold since 2007  because of a defect in an LCD component that could overheat, melt or cause a fire.

Sony has received 11 reports in Japan  of the …

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Get yer’ red hot Occupy Wall Street Merchandise here!

Irony alert: The Occupy Wall Street movement has now officially become a business. As noted in this Drudge Report post, a trove of Occupy merchandise has turned up on eBay, allowing demonstrators and memory-makers alike to capitalize, so to speak,  on the scene. Perfect for the holiday shopping season.

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Billionaire Warren Buffett: Tax me, please!

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett frequently argues that the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes – an argument frequently repeated by President Barack Obama.

Buffett, who is worth $45 billion,  set out to prove his point this week in a letter to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) obtained by CNN.

In it, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway discloses he paid only $15,300 in payroll taxes last year and less than $7 million to Uncle Sam on taxable income of $39,814,784, CNN reports.  Buffett’s adjusted gross income was $62,855,038 last year.

A big chunk of Buffett’s income came from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate than wages, and not from wages, which accounts for the small amount of payroll taxes.

To put Buffett’s 17.4 percent federal tax rate in perspective, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center notes wage earners making between $34,000 and $60,000 have a 12 percent tax rate, including payroll and income taxes, while  those earning $211,000 to $533,000 …

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