Archive for February, 2013

Publix, Office Depot, Nordstrom lead in satisfying customers

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Checkout lanes at Publix. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Checkout lanes at Publix. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

When it comes to giving customers what they want, Publix leads among supermarkets, Office Depot among specialty retailers and Nordstrom among department and discount stores, according to the quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The report gauges customer satisfaction with 44 companies in the following industries: supermarkets; department and discount stores; specialty retail stores; health and personal care (drug) stores; gasoline service stations; and Internet retail, brokerage, and travel.

The businesses on top strike the right balance between quality and value, according to ACSI researchers. On a scale of 0 to 100, Publix received a top score of 86 among supermarkets in the fourth quarter 2012, followed by Whole Foods (80), Kroger (79) and Winn-Dixie (78).

“Low price inflation for food products in 2012, combined with better service, product selection and store …

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FTC: Georgia No. 2 in fraud, ID theft complaints

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Have you been the victim of identity theft? If you live in Georgia, you’re certainly not alone.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Georgia ranked No. 2 among the 50 states in identity theft complaints  per capita last year, exceeded only by Florida. In fact, Florida and Georgia were also No. 1 and 2, respectively, in overall fraud complaints last year, the FTC reported this week. (See PDF).

Fraud accounted for more than half of the 2 million complaints the FTC received last year. Georgia had 590 complaints per 100,000 people (58,542 complaints). The state had 194 complaints per 100,000  for identity theft (19,232 complaints).

The stolen IDs were most often used to obtain government documents and benefits, the FTC said. That might help explain why rates were highest in Florida.

After identity theft, the complaints filed the most to the FTC dealt with debt collection; banks and lenders; shop-at-home and catalog sales; prizes, …

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Instagram hits 100 million-plus users a month

Braves team photographer Pouya Dianat recently shared sample Instagram videos with outfielder Justin Upton in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com)

Braves team photographer Pouya Dianat recently shared sample Instagram videos with outfielder Justin Upton in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com)

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Instagram is now used by more than 100 million people each month, co-founder Kevin Systrom disclosed on the photo-sharing site Tuesday.

In a blog, Systrom recalled the moment in 2010 when he and co-founder Mike Krieger realized “the power of images to connect people to what was happening in the world around them.”

It was in chilly October and the Stanford University grads, in overcoats, were huddled in an office on a San Francisco Bay pier. As they worked on code on their laptops, they could hear fans in the distance cheering as the Giants faced the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series. As Systrom recalls:

“While we may only have had a few thousand people around the world using Instagram that night, we had a sense that maybe through Instagram …

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Mom-daughter duo caught in Coke contest scam

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A mother-daughter team who managed to manipulate a Coca-Cola bottle cap contest and steal more than $200,000 now must repay thousands of dollars to the Atlanta-based company, though not as much as they stole.

Carrie Jones, 55, and Sarah Jones, 31, both of Albany, Oregon, pleaded guilty recently to computer crime. They entered a four-month contest in 2011 that allowed consumers to text codes underneath caps on Coke products to see if they were winners. The winner then had to email the code to Coke for prizes that included concert tickets.

According to The Albany Democrat-Herald, contest rules said a person could win no more than twice and a household only five times during the promotion. A local detective said the two women created email addresses using other people’s identities and sold  prize codes “to various auction websites, and then directly to ticket brokers.”  It’s still a mystery how they got the winning prize codes.

Coca-Cola …

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U.S. exec to France: ‘How stupid do you think we are?’

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(Updated 9:02 p.m.)

The chairman of Titan International, a major U.S. producer of tires for farming and construction, has made it perfectly clear to France that he has no intentions of putting French workers on his payroll.

Titan has plants around the world, including Europe, and French industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg suggested to Chairman Maurice Taylor that his company take over a Goodyear plant due to close  north of Paris, putting 1,000 workers out of  work. Titan also makes Goodyear farm tires.

“How stupid do you think we are?” Taylor wrote to Montebourg in a letter obtained by European media outlets. The U.S. exec, whose nickname is “The Grizz,” then proceeds to rip the French official over how little his fellow citizens work.

“I have visited that factory a couple of times,” Taylor said of the Amiens facility. “The French workforce gets paid high wages, but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for …

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Record numbers of workers calling in sick

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

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Know anyone who called in sick last month?

While absences due to illness or injury tend to spike from December through March, the call-ins last month were the highest than in any month in the last five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly 2.9 million people who usually work full time worked only part of the week studied by the bureau either because of their own illness, injury or a medical appointment. An additional 1.2 million didn’t work at all during the period, the bureau reported.

The last time the numbers were that high was in February 2008, when 3.3 million people who usually work full time worked part time because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment and 1.3 million employed people did not work at all during the survey reference week because of illness or injury, the bureau said in its report.

It doesn’t help that this year’s flu vaccine has not been as effective as …

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Home Depot, Lowe’s benefiting from Wall Street buzz

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

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Shares of Atlanta-based Home Depot and its chief home improvement retail competitor, Lowe’s, got a lift Friday following favorable analysts’ reassessments of their stocks ahead of next week’s earnings reports.

Lowe’s will report fourth-quarter results on Monday and Home Depot on Tuesday.

Home Depot was the biggest gainer Friday, rising nearly 2 percent to close at $65.58, up $1.20 on the New York Stock Exchange. Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s closed at $37.67, unchanged after reaching an intraday high of $38.12. Both stocks are trading a few dollars shy of their 52-week highs.

The recent uptick in homebuilding and home improvements by consumers is expected to continue after lackluster activity in recent years.

Analysts at Oppenheimer recently raised their stock ratings on Home Depot and Lowe’s to “outperform” from “perform.”

“Data suggest that consumer spending continues to hold up well,” the analyst group …

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Scooter Store’s headquarters raided in federal probe

(The Scooter Store)

(The Scooter Store)

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You’ve seen the countless commercials with smiling elderly men and women tooling around in their new scooters, enjoying their newly discovered  mobility.

The Scooter Store, one of the largest companies marketing the four-wheelers, however, was not in a smiling mood Wednesday after federal agents raided its Texas headquarters.

The 9 a.m. raid by more than 150 federal and state law officials in New Braunfels, just northeast of San Antonio, was part of an ongoing investigation into Medicare fraud, according to local media covering the event. Staffers were told to leave their work spaces untouched and then to leave the premises.

The company made no immediate comments about the raid, during which there were no arrests.

The raid involved the FBI, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Texas Attorney General’s Office, local newspaper and TV stations …

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Wells Fargo rolling out new ATMs

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Wells Fargo & Co. has begun rolling out new ATMs that feature personalized screens based on customers’ past transaction habits, the company said Tuesday.

So far 500 of the new ATMs have been installed – none so far in metro Atlanta -  but all of the  more than 12,000 new machines will be in place by May. The company said it will be an entirely new ATM banking experience and Wells Fargo is “the first and only bank to offer this service to its customers.”

The new ATM screen’s layout will be personalized with an immediate snapshot of account balances in one corner. A “cash tracker” allows customers to track monthly withdrawals and set withdrawal targets. Other dashboards make it easier to make withdrawal or deposit transactions based on previous actions.

“We redesigned our ATMs based on what customers tell us they want, and we’re constantly striving to make our ATMs quicker, easier, and more convenient,” Alicia Moore, head of Wells Fargo ATM …

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Report: Google planning its own stores

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

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Since Google’s Android operating system powers so many smartphones and other devices these days, it makes sense the multibillion-dollar company might establish its own stores to put more of the devices in consumers’ hands.

The Wall Street Journal reports the company, known originally for its search engine, is developing plans to launch retail stores in the U.S. The news site quotes people familiar with the plans as its source. The report says it isn’t clear when or where any stores would open.

Google, the company behind YouTube, Picasa, Gmail and the Chrome web browser, would be following the lead of its No. 1 competitor when it comes to operating systems, Apple. The company behind the iOS operating system, which powers iPhones, iPads and a range of other “i” products, has about 400 retail locations worldwide. Microsoft, another tech giant, has also opened locations to sell its software, Xboxes and new Surface …

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