5 consejos para construir branding personal efectivo #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía con 5 consejos para construir branding personal efectivo. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

¿Con qué frecuencia tuitear? #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre ¿Con qué frecuencia tuitear?. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Los 7 pecados capitales del Marketing #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con los 7 pecados capitales del Marketing. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Cómo Google está cambiando la educación #infografia #infographic #education

Hola: Una infografía que nos explica cómo Google está cambiando la educación. Un saludo Source:

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Manual del mal empresario: guía paso a paso #infografia #infographic #entrepreneurship

Hola: Una infografía con el Manual del mal empresario:guía paso a paso. Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Tiny Bluetooth Card Skimmers Will Make You Hug Your Debit Card

It’s probably not a good idea to use your debit card at the gas pump. Not because we have anything against debit cards, but because we’ve learned of yet another group of criminals who planted invisible card skimmers in pay-at-the-pump machines at gas stations in the southern United States.


Sure, the Target breach makes boring old hardware hacks like this look boring and unsophisticated by comparison. Just add this to the rapidly growing list of ways that crooks can stick invisible hands into your wallet, draining your bank account.

Gang Rigged Pumps With Bluetooth Skimmers [Krebs on Security]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Los datos del mundo del SEO #infografia #infographic #seo

Hola: Una infografía con los datos del mundo del SEO. Un saludo Credits for Top Net SEO

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Top 10 reasons for your child to learn spanish #infografia #infographic #education

Hola: Una infografía con el Top 10 reasons for your child to learn spanish. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Consejos para conseguir mejores resultados en Twitter #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre Consejos para conseguir mejores resultados en Twitter. Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Las 5 “I” de los Servicios #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre las 5 “I” de los Servicios. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

12 consejos de Marketing para empresas #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía con 12 consejos de Marketing para empresas. Un saludo Business Marketing Tips – See more at:

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

La historia de la obsesión Selfie #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre la historia de la obsesión Selfie. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Woman Busted For Fake $100 Bills Because “Moe Money” Isn’t In Charge Of Signing Currency

While for most consumers an attempt to pay with fake money probably amounts to joking “Ha ha, you don’t accept old Blockbuster cards as payment, do you? (wink!)” there are others out there who’ll go to great lengths to pull a fast one on retailers with counterfeit bills. That being said, having Moe Money’s signature on your $100 bills isn’t going to convince anyone that thing is anything but a fakety fake fake.

The 19-year-old suspect was charged with uttering a forged instrument, forgery of instrument and obtaining property by false pretense, reports, and one count of inducing giggles by using the name Moe Money in the first place.

Police accuse her of trying to buy a gift card at a local Walgreens with a counterfeit $100, which led to her arrest. Cops later found $12,882 in fake money after her arrest, but it’s unclear if she’d ever successfully spent any more of the Moe Money money before.

Side note: Even if Moe Money was believable as a real guy, giving him the job title under his signature of “Proprietor of the Commonwealth” instead of say, Secretary of the Treasury or something is a giant tipoff too. Because while maybe not everyone knows who Secretary of the Treasury or the Treasurer of the United States are in any given year — “Current events, so tough,” whatever you tell yourself — the Proprietor of the Commonwealth is straight fiction and is not signing any money. Sorry, Moe.

UNCG student arrested for counterfeit currency []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Big Lots Celebrates Lots Of Holidays, All At Once

If you were wondering, Easter is April 20 this year. Christmas, of course, was December 25. At Big Lots, the period of mid-to-late January is a time of peaceful coexistence of holidays. It is a time when we celebrate both the birth and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time when the Easter stuff hits the shelves, even though the Christmas stuff hasn’t all sold yet.


“They had 3+ aisles still left of Christmas items on clearance that it seems no one wanted to buy,” writes reader Lynn, who found this display at a Big lots in the Southwest. “Not only was the Christmas stuff invading on Easter turf but there was St. Patrick’s Day stuff right around the corner. Wacky!”

What, no Valentine’s Day on the same shelf?

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Desempleo en España (2013) #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre el Desempleo en España (2013). Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Las alertas que más usamos en los smartphones #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre las alertas que más usamos en los smartphones. Un saludo You will find more statistics at Statista

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Influencers vs defensores de marca #infografia #infographic #marketin

Hola: Una infografía sobre Influencers vs defensores de marca #infografia. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Algunas actividades de un Community Manager #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con algunas actividades de un Community Manager. Un saludo

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

PayPal hace crecer a eBay #infografia #infographic #ecommerce

Hola: Una infografía que nos dice que PayPal hace crecer a eBay. Un saludo You will find more statistics at Statista

TICs y Formación Via Alfredo Vela y

Should Season Ticket Holder Seniority Be A Factor In Super Bowl Lotteries?

For many sports fans, having season tickets is like a marriage. It’s expensive in the beginning and maybe gets even pricier, but you know when you commit at the start that it’s a relationship meant to last a long time. And heck, maybe you’ll get to go the Super Bowl if you put enough time in and stay loyal. The marriage metaphor falls apart there, but that’s how one disappointed family felt after 50 years of having season tickets.

One man defeated by the lottery system that bestowed tickets on some lucky Broncos fans says it was “painful” to be left out in the end. He’s a third generation Broncos ticket holder — his grandfather bought the tickets in 1963.

“It’s rough,” he told CBS Denver. “Years of therapy and I’ll be fine.”

He got a postcard this week letting him know he hadn’t been selected for Super Bowl tickets, and he feels maybe seniority should come into play in situations like this.

“There are a lot of season ticket holders that have not had tickets as long as we have who have received Super Bowl tickets,” he explained.

The Broncos had 14,000 tickets to give out for the Big Game, but didn’t say how many of those went to season ticket holders. The team said tickets were made available in accordance with league guidelines.

Meanwhile, the man says he won’t abandon his team after all this time, despite the disappointment.

“We will be Bronco fans till we die I’m sure,” he said.

Not All Broncos Season Ticket Holders Score Super Bowl Tickets [CBS Denver]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

E-Mail Shows Big Corn Exec Wary Of Using “Natural” To Describe High-Fructose Corn Syrup

cornmazegrab Though the FDA rejected the bid to relabel high-fructose corn syrup as “corn syrup” in 2012, the legal battle over ads about the sweetener is still ongoing. Newly uncovered e-mails from executives at huge agri-business firms reveal that not everyone was on board with all the messaging in the pro-HFCS ads.

NBC News reports that a handful of doubt-tinged correspondence has turned up among the hundreds of thousands of pages of court documents involved in the courtroom wars between the Corn Refiners Association and a group of sugar companies that opposed the “corn sugar” campaign.

One 2010 e-mail from an Archer Daniels-Midland spokesperson expresses concern over the use of the term “natural” in the advertising.

“I think we’re unnecessarily asking for trouble by using the ‘natural’ language,” wrote the rep. “I don’t think we really gain much in the mind of the audience or customers and I think it provides a point to ridicule the ads and the industry comes off as being disingenuous.”

He points to TV news pundits who had already raised the question of how HFCS, which uses a chemical process to convert regular corn syrup, could be considered a “natural” ingredient. The rep says that just because ADM and others believe that the sweetener is natural “doesn’t mean we have to say it.”

A 2009 e-mail from CRA president Audrae Erickson said that while she expects the food and beverage industry “would want to defend this highly versatile ingredient that is highly prized and widely used,” the Corn Refiners’ “sponsorship of this campaign (should) remain confidential.”

A lawyer representing corn syrup companies explains these e-mails to NBC, saying they “clearly show… the corn refiners engaged in a rigorous internal discussion about the public relations aspects of what HFCS is called, while never wavering in their core belief that high fructose corn syrup is both natural and nutritionally equivalent to sugar.”

Before the FDA rejected the bid to rename HFCS as corn sugar — in part because that label is already used for dextrose monohydrate — the sugar companies had already filed suit against the CRA, alleging false advertising. The CRA later countersued, claiming the sugar companies were maliciously trying to defame the CRA and HFCS.

Whatever you think of the sugar vs. HFCS debate, you have to admit the “corn sugar” ads were hilariously folksy and continue to be good fodder for a chuckle:

Thanks to Simon for the tip!

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

No, That Sansabelt “Action Pants” Ad You Saw On Facebook Is Not Real

action_zoneEveryone loves vintage ads, especially the ones that haven’t aged particularly well. You know, the sexist and racist ads that look horrible to modern eyes, and the ones that sixty years of unrelenting irony have rendered unintentionally hilarious. However, before you hit “share” on Facebook, stop and think: is this vintage ad simply too hilarious?

Very few people have been asking themselves that question recently. That’s how a fantastic print ad for Sansabelt slacks came to make the Internet rounds, since everyone felt compelled to share it with their favorite men of action.


Tee-hee! The pants are extra-reinforced in the crotch, which is called “THE ACTION ZONE!” This could be placed unironically in a mainstream magazine ad because crotch jokes were not invented until 1974! Yeah, not so much.

The image itself was a 2010 parody published on the blog How to be a Dapper Gent, adapted from a real vintage ad that ran in Esquire sometime in the ’60s. Adapted.

Sansabelt was a real product, of course. They were pants designed to be worn without a belt: “sans a belt,” get it? The brand’s parent company went out of business in 1967, but the new owner of the brand promises to bring Sansabelt back. Maybe they should hire the blogger who made this ad to create viral marketing campaigns for them….even if the ads need a few years to really take off.

Antiviral: Here Is What’s Bullshit on the Internet This Week [Gawker] (Thanks, Ben!)

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

CFPB Wants To Supervise International Money Transfer Operations

In Oct. 2013, new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau kicked in that provided new disclosures and protections for people making international money transfers. While the CFPB has the ability to check in with the nation’s largest banks and credit unions to make sure they are complying with these new rules, it doesn’t yet have that authority for non-bank companies that offer this service.

So today the CFPB proposed a rule that would allow the Bureau to supervise non-bank money transfer operations that make more than 1 million international money transfers annually. The Bureau figures this would put the country’s 25 largest non-bank money transfer providers within its supervisory scope.

The Remittance Rule, part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, expanded the scope of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to add new protections to international money transfers.

These protections include disclosures about exchange rates, fees, and taxes, the right to cancel a transfer within 30 minutes, information about when the transferred money will be available on the other end, and a 90-day limit on dispute resolutions.

“The CFPB’s Remittance Rule provides strong consumer protections like better disclosures and the correction of errors,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “Today’s proposed rule would help us provide oversight across the entire market so consumers get the protections they deserve.”

Though the CFPB’s is proposing that it has the right to supervise the largest non-bank transfer providers, the Remittance Rule applies to most companies that make at least 100 transfers each year.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

About To Break Down And Buy A Snowblower? You May Be Too Late

Some people plan ahead, and a few people plan way ahead. For example, they go shopping for a snowblower in August, months before snow even thinks about forming. Most regular people don’t have this level of foresight, though, which is why there aren’t any snowblowers left in stores after a massive storm hits your region.

Sure, that seems pretty obvious from the outside, but that’s no help when you’ve got a drifted-in driveway and your local Home Depot says that they’re out of stock. Fortunately, there are always other options.

Our bundled-up colleagues over at Consumer Reports called around the snow-encrusted New York City suburbs to find out who still had snowblowers in stock. Inventory was running low at big-box stores and at Sears, but one category of store that most shoppers might not think of still had plenty of machines. Going directly to the dealers for outdoor-equipment manufacturers like Toro and MTD was fruitful, since dealers supply retail stores and sell directly to consumers. Local dealers had a variety of models in stock and ready to blow through your snow.

Buy a snow blower now before they sell out [Consumer Reports]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Would You Buy A Mattress Before Trying It Out In A Store First?

A good mattress can be hard to find — or soft, depending on the level of support you’re partial to. And because the perfect mattress isn’t just essential to a good night’s sleep but is also usually a bit of an investment, shoppers have long been bouncing, tossing and turning on, napping and otherwise trying out mattresses in showrooms before buying them. But is that all about to change?

Quartz thinks so, pointing to the mattress industry as the perfect place for a young upstart to come in and start offering lower-cost mattresses to compete with the established bed kingpins. After all, no one used to buy glasses online — you had to go in, try them on and see if you liked how they look.

But now there are companies like Warby Parker that are doing gangbusters business simply because they’re easy to use and often much cheaper than traditional in-store offerings.

Following in that vein is a new start-up called Tuft & Needle, dubbed the “Warby Parker of mattresses” in an industry article about the company. It offers free returns after a 30-day trial, its mattresses are cheaper and with the No. 1 mattress on Amazon, it sold more than $1 million last year.

Companies like this might be poised to elbow out the competitors’ high mark-ups, but then again, many shoppers need a good wiggle before they decide to buy. How about you?

Mattress stores are about to go the way of the dodo [Quartz]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

17 Supermarket Tricks, Tips And Insider Secrets You’re Probably Clueless About

We’ve always known the supermarket is a veritable jungle, set with snares and traps designed to lure even the most observant shopper into buying whatever that heavenly smelling thing is, or lulling us into a contented stupor so we linger longer in the aisles. And now thanks to the combined effort of experts, analysts and grocery store employees, we know even more. Prepare yourselves.

Reader’s Digest went all out with its 50 Supermarket Tricks You Still Fall For. Some of those aren’t so much tricks as valuable insight the average shopper can use to better navigate those daunting aisles. We’ve culled 18 of our favorites capable of cracking your brain open to a new way of viewing the supermarket jungle. Get cracking!

1. Shopping carts are getting bigger so you’ll put more in them: “We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19% more,” explained Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

2. You probably only know the price of four items: Your brain can only hold so much. So while you know the approximate price of milk, bread, banana and eggs, 95% of shoppers have no clue what other things cost. The clueless shopper then doesn’t know if you’re getting a good deal on whatever you buy outside those four things, so it might be good to study up.

3. More than half of shoppers decide not to buy stuff in the checkout line: That’s why supermarkets have started making checkout lanes narrower with less space to off-load those items. If you can’t dump it, you might be more likely to buy it. Dump early, folks. Dump early.

4. Wear headphones and listen to upbeat music while you shop: Many stores plant earworms by way of slow music, slower than the average heartbeat. That lulls you into spending more time at the store, which then leads to spending about 29% more, Lindstrom says.

5. Because grocery stores can’t compete with Walmart on price, they’re classing things up to bring you in: To compete with the low prices elsewhere, many stores are bringing in butchers who are skilled with the knife and produce managers who are pros on fruits and vegetables, along with dietitians who give seminars on healthy eating habits, according to Jeff Weidauer, a former supermarket executive and vice president of marketing for Vestcom, a retail services company.

6. That myth about milk being in the back of the store so you have to walk aisle to get to it? Not quite the real reason: It’s even simpler than tempting you with stuff on the way in, explains Weidauer. “Milk needs to be refrigerated right away; the trucks unload in the back, so the fridges are there so that we can fill the cases as quickly and easily as possible.”

7. If you need a cake, don’t buy it the day you need it: “We’ll have to give you one from the display case, and those cakes have often been sitting out for a while. If you order in advance, we’ll make the cake for you that day or the night before, and it will be a lot fresher.” — a former cake decorator and bakery worker at a grocery store near Birmingham, Alabama.

8. Sure, that mist on your fruits and vegetables looks nice: But really it can make them rot faster, Lindstrom says. Also make sure you shake off your leafy greens before you get to the checkout — the mist can add to an item’s weight.

9. Ask and ye shall receive: “The butcher will tenderize meat for you, the baker will slice a loaf of bread, and the florist will usually give you free greenery to go with your loose flowers,” says Teri Gault, grocery savings expert and CEO of “At some stores owned by Kroger, the seafood department worker will even coat your fish in flour or Cajun seasoning and fry it up for free.”

10. If something is about to expire the next day, ask about getting a discount early: If you see something in the bakery or meat department that’s probably going to get marked down tomorrow, say “Hey, this is expiring tomorrow. Are you going to mark it down?” Sometimes they’ll do it for you right then. They’ll have to sell it later anyway, so you’re helping them out, says Gault.

11. We’re all fools for the ten-for$10 promotion: “We’ll take an 89-cent can of tuna and mark it ‘ten for $10,’ 
and instead of buying six cans for 89 cents, people will buy ten for $10,” explains Weidauer. Who else feels like a sucker?

12. Just because you saw it in your grocery store circular doesn’t mean it’s necessarily on sale: Some of those products are just advertised so you’ll buy them. Make sure there’s an actual sale on an item before you set your heart on buying it.

13. There’s a reason that bread is in a brown paper bag: The faster the bread goes stale, the sooner you’ll be back at the store to buy more, a former worker says. Put loaves in airtight plastic bags as soon as you get home.

14. Avoid the herd mentality: Shop when the store isn’t as crowded or you could be in danger of buying more so you can be part of the group. Mondays and Tuesdays are the best — skip weekends if you can.

15. USDA quality grade means more than the cut’s name: Angus? So what — that’s no guarantee it’ll be a good steak, says Kari Underly, former grocery store meat cutter and author of The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising. “Prime is the best, then choice (usually the highest grade available in grocery stores), followed by select, and finally standard.”

16. You aren’t that apple’s first customer: Shoppers are constantly picking up produce, dropping it, and putting it back, explains another former grocery worker, so beware. “I’ve seen kids take a bite and put the item back. It took me a long time to start eating fresh fruits and vegetables again after working in a store,” she says.

17. The carts never get cleaned: Babies will do their business on carts, chicken juice will leak and who knows if anyone cleaned up after that? If you’re worried about germs, give carts a quick swipe with sanitizing wipes.

For 33 other tips and tricks, check out the Reader’s Digest complete roundup in the source link below.

50 Supermarket Tricks You Still Fall For [Reader's Digest]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Nissan Scolded For Ad Showing Truck Doing The Impossible

The FTC says Nissan crossed a line in this ad showing one of its truck coming to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy.

The FTC says Nissan crossed a line in this ad showing one of its truck coming to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy.

You may remember the car ad from a couple years back in which a Nissan Frontier comes to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy, muscling up the mountain of sand and pushing the buggy over the top. The Federal Trade Commission believes that this sort of thing — showing off a feature of a vehicle that does not exist — is deceptive, and has slapped both the car company and the ad agency on the wrists over it.

The FTC announced today that it Nissan North America and ad agency TBWA Worldwide have both agreed to settle charges that the ad (which you can watch below, at least until Nissan probably has it pulled from YouTube) violated the FTC Act “by representing that the ad accurately showed the performance of an unaltered Nissan Frontier under the conditions that were depicted.”

The commercial, one of those ads that is obnoxiously shot as if to replicate a viral video posted to YouTube, starts by showing a dune buggy trying but failing to go over the crest of a steep sand dune. Then the Frontier comes speeding up from below and nudges both the buggy and itself over the top while people look on in disbelief.

The ad does begin with a microprint disclaimer reading “Fictionalization. Do Not Attempt,” but the FTC took issue with the fact that the ad makes a material misrepresentation of the truck’s capabilities.

“Special effects in ads can be entertaining, but advertisers can’t use them to misrepresent what a product can do,” explains Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This ad made the Nissan Frontier appear capable of doing something it can’t do.”

The terms of the settlement prohibit Nissan and TBWA from using deceptive demonstrations in advertisements for pickup trucks, though really this is already against the law, so they aren’t really allowed to do it with or without the settlement.

Both companies are allowed to continue using special effects and other production techniques “as long as they do not misrepresent a material quality or feature of the pickup truck.”

For what it’s worth, here is the original ad:

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Burger King Singapore Strikes Gold, If By “Gold” You Mean “Cheese”

cheesiestA new promotion at Burger King in Singapore compares cheese to gold. Here at Consumerist, we agree, because we really like cheese. The Striking Gold burger comes in chicken and beef varieties and features nacho, Swiss, and American cheeses, all on one burger. It’s like a United Nations of not-terribly-exciting cheeses.

The best part of this ad by far are the fake awards that BK gave itself celebrating its own cheesetasticness, which isn’t a word and really shouldn’t be. We’re amused that BK is allegedly holding their own “Cheesiest BK Burger” ceremony, and the entire Consumerist editorial board officially volunteers to judge the next Golden Cheese Awards. You know, if they need judges.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

A Simple Guide For Contacting Your Local Lawmakers (And What To Say To Them)

There are a lot of proposed laws out there, making their way through–or stalling out in–the House and Senate. And a common refrain from concerned parties is for everyone to “Call your representatives about this issue!” But to some people, that’s a daunting task.

Say you’re good and riled up about something. Great! There’s a bill on the Hill near and dear to your heart and you really want it either to get votes, or to go away. You’re burning with a passion to let your elected representatives know how you feel about it, and to ask them to vote a certain way on the issue. Fantastic! But who should you contact, and how?

Who you gonna call?

No matter which of the 50 states you live in (sorry, DC), you’ve got a member of the House of Representatives and two Senators in the Capitol to represent you.

While the tide of public opinion in general does in some way influence members of Congress, the only opinions they actually tally up are those of their constituents: the people who can either re-elect them or get them ousted. So it’s important to find the rep related to where you actually live.

repfind01 Luckily, the House does make this one easy: in addition to a full directory, they have a Find Your Representative page. There’s also a permanent box on the top bar of the whole site where you can find your representative as well.

Most ZIP codes only have one possible representative, and so you’ll see your representative’s name, profile photo, and link to their website appear on the left. That website link is the crucial element you’re looking for.

Some ZIP codes overlap multiple Congressional districts. If yours does, the site will prompt you to clarify, either by providing your ZIP +4 or by providing your street address. Once you’ve narrowed down your address, the site will tell you who your Congressional representative is. And again, that website link is the item you’re looking for.

repfind03 Finding your Senators is easier, because they work at a state level rather than at a district one. The Senate’s website has a full list of all 50 Senators that can be sorted by state, by name, or by political party.

To make your search shorter, you can also select your state directly.

The search returns your Senators’ names, DC office addresses, DC office phone numbers, and website links. Once again, that website link is probably the part you are most going to want to remember.

Every elected official’s website is a little bit different, but they all have a “Contact” option on them somewhere. Those Contact pages all have on them a link to a web form/e-mail contact option, at least one mailing address, and at least one phone number.

Sometimes the form is on top, and the address at the bottom; sometimes there’s a page of options. No matter the layout, the contact info is on there somewhere.

So now you know exactly who the three people elected to represent your interests in government are, and how to reach them. Now what?

What to say?

You don’t have to like or agree with the politicians who represent you. It’s okay to have a whole set of insults for them running through your brain. But if you are going to reach out to their offices, you do need to be civil. An unhinged screed will fall on deaf ears where thoughtful correspondence may be counted.

So when you sit down to plan out your message, think through what you hope to accomplish. Then make sure you address the key points:

  • What is the issue or bill?

  • Why is it important to you–why would a certain outcome help or hurt?

  • What would you like the person you’re contacting to do about it?

Short and simple is best. You don’t need to get wordy or flowery; your whole letter will likely be just a handful of sentences (or about thirty seconds, if you call). If you’re not sure how to phrase your concerns, any major issue with media and activist attention on it will have lots of easy-to-Google sample templates online you can customize. And don’t stress about forms of address: “Dear Representative _____” and “Dear Senator _____” are both fine.

So keep it straightforward. The gist of your communication might look something like this:

Dear Senator [NAME],

I am writing to urge you to vote [yes or no] on S. 9999, the Fictitious Act of 2014.

The fictitious issue is important to [group of people like you] because [reasons]. If it [does or doesn't] become law, [positive or negative consequences].

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

How to say it?

There are three ways you can tell your politicians your concerns: actual paper letters, phone calls, or digital letters–either through e-mail or, more typically, through a web form.

Someone in the office of each Representative and Senator keeps track of the correspondence their boss receives, so any of the three methods of communication will create a tick in the appropriate column. That said, conventional wisdom still holds that snail mail is the most likely to be taken seriously, so if you have the time that can be the best way to go. On the other hand, if you want to reach someone about an urgent issue–say, a bill that’s coming up for vote in the next 48 hours–calling is obviously going to be the fastest way to be heard.

If you use a web form, be prepared to fill in your name, address, and e-mail address, and to select the rough category of the issue you’re writing about from a list of broad options.

If you’re sending a paper letter, make sure to include not only your full name but also your street address. If you’re unsure where to send your mail (state capital or home district location vs. Capitol Hill), just use their Washington, DC office address. The Senate website also has a brief guide for sending postal mail to senators.

And that’s it! Short, simple, easy. If you’re calling, make sure you think through what you’re going to say first, so you don’t have a brain fart when someone picks up the phone. If you’re writing, don’t forget to proofread before you send.

You might actually hear back from your senator’s or representative’s office in the weeks after you’ve reached out. (You may also end up on their e-mail news list, from which you should feel free to unsubscribe.)

In the immediate term, there’s not much more you can do after that. The folks in the House and Senate will cast their votes, and it may or may not go the way you hoped. Someone in the office you contacted will probably send you a form letter (or e-mail), and it may or may not accurately connect to the message you sent them.

In the longer term, though, always remember: if it’s an even-numbered year, there’s an election. If you like the way your representative or senator handled something, you can vote to keep them in office. And if you don’t, you can support someone else. So don’t just write to your politicians; make sure you vote, too.

by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Researchers Claim The Disease That Is Facebook Will Fade Out In A Matter Of Years

While we’ve all been sitting here worried about the coming zombie apocalypse, the truth is we’ve already been infected. But instead of rotting flesh and vacant eyes, we’ve been infected by Facebook (which also is known to cause vacant eyes and drooling if you stare at it too long). Researchers say the cure is coming, or at least this infectious disease will fade out in the coming years.

Researchers at Princeton University say that the social network is like an infectious disease, which has a hefty spike before plummeting to its death, reports the AFP. Or its decline, same thing.

The two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering say Facebook will shed 80% of its users by 2017. As things stand right now, if we set Facebook’s total users at about 1.1 billion (according to recent claims) that would mean 880,000,000 people jumping ship. Ooh, fewer baby pictures to sort through!

The researchers make these claims in a new paper published online, which incorporates the rise and fall of Facebook’s social network predecessor MySpace. The clock is ticking, say the authors.

“Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models,” they wrote.

Things have been going downhill in terms of data usage since 2012, the study adds, and things will only get worse.

“Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 percent of its maximum size by December 2014,” said the report. “Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”

The piece is still waiting to undergo the peer review process before it’s formally published. No doubt others will come out with a study saying Facebook will someday morph into an all-knowing robot being who can read our minds and control our every moves as part of some kind of hive-mind society.

Facebook could fade out like a disease

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

After 5 Years On The Market, Someone Is Finally Buying Cameron’s House From ‘Ferris Bueller’

"When Cameron was in Egypt's land... Let my Cameron go..."

“When Cameron was in Egypt’s land… Let my Cameron go…”

By the time we started covering the attempted sale of the Highland Park, IL, house made famous as the site of where Cameron kills his dad’s Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off it had already been on sale for two years. That was in 2011. In those years, the price has dropped by more than a million dollars, but no one seemed interested in picking up this piece of ’80s cinema history, until now.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the 1953 A. James Speyer-designed home, complete with the glassed-in garage sticking out over a ravine that eats classic cars, is finally under contract.

The sale price is not yet known, but the house was most recently listed for $1.25 million. That’s more than a million dollars off the original 2009 asking price of $2.3 million.

In 2011, the price plunged to $1.65 million, but still couldn’t attract any buyers. As recently as last August, the sellers knocked off another $150,000 to get the asking price to $1.5 million. Even then, there were no takers.

Let’s just hope this is the final chapter in the Cameron’s house saga, and that the new owners don’t allow their mopey children anywhere near their expensive rides.

Speaking of which…

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

College Student Protests Tuition Hike By Paying With Singles

Like many schools around the country, tuition at the University of Utah has soared in the last decade. In-state students at this school are now paying more than double what students paid only a decade ago, with another 5% increase coming. In minor protest of these rate hikes, one Utah student chose to express his feelings by paying his tuition in singles.

The Salt Lake Tribune spoke to the 21-year-old electrical engineering student as he stood in line waiting to pay the balance of his tuition bill at the Student Services building, cradling a metal case containing 2,000 dollar bills.

Even though the student receives a discount on tuition because his father is on the faculty, he felt it was important to get the word out about the increasing cost of an education.

“By no means am I the saddest story on campus. There’s a lot of people here just as bad and probably worse,” he told the Tribune. “The people making the prices are not actually aware of how hard it is on the students.”

The hope, he explains, is that other students will follow his lead in future semesters.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says the cost of a college education has increased tenfold during the last three decades, far outpacing the rate of inflation. Even as the economy tanked following the collapse of the housing market in 2008, tuitions continued to soar.

Public institutions like the University of Utah are in a particular pickle, facing increasing costs while cash-strapped states contribute less to higher education.

The increased cost to students has resulted in student loan debt that now totals more than $1 trillion in the U.S. This heavier student loan burden is preventing a number of recent college graduates from making important investments, like buying their first home, starting a retirement savings account, or saving for their own kids’ education.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

We’re Just Shocked That It Took This Long For Someone To Create Beer-Flavored Jelly Beans

Beer is here.

Beer is here.

The big news in candy land is that JellyBelly has a new beer-flavored jelly bean. Which sure, is news, but only because we can’t believe it took this long. Because we Americans, when we like something, like cheese or bacon or beer? We just love bending it to our will and turning it into new foods. So beer candy? Yep, about time.

The company says it took some thinking to settle on which exact kind of beer to build a flavor on, finally deciding on a Hefeweizen-inspired ale flavor for its Draft Beer Jelly Belly jelly beans.

The new flavor as unleashed at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this week and ISM in Cologne, Germany.

So why the wait, Jelly Belly or any other company that would decide to take on beer and candy? The company says they didn’t want to mess anything up for the rest of us.

“This took about three years to perfect,” says Ambrose Lee, research and development manager for Jelly Belly Candy Company. “The recipe includes top secret ingredients, but I can tell you it contains no alcohol.”

Instead, the “effervescent and crisp flavor is packed in a golden jelly bean with an iridescent finish.” So it tastes like beer, with a mildly bready aroma and a flavor profile that might remind you of beer, but it’s safe for anyone of any age to eat.

“Anyone who enjoys a good, cold beer will enjoy Draft Beer Jelly Belly beans for the simple fact that it tastes just as you’d imagine,” says Rob Swaigen, vice president of marketing for Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Except for the cold and liquidy and actual beer part, but hey, that’s what beer is for.

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Why Is Express Scripts Making Me Buy A New Blood Glucose Meter?

imgresAs diabetics, people with diabetic loved ones, and anyone who has seen a TV commercial starring Wilford Brimley all know, keeping track of one’s blood glucose levels is an important part of staying healthy with diabetes. But what happens when you suddenly can’t get the supplies that you need for the brand of meter that you’ve chosen because your health insurer will only cover one brand of meter?

Some people who get their prescription coverage through ExpressScripts are upset because as of the first of the year, the company will only cover supplies for OneTouch meters. The customers have to buy new meters: that’s the only option. Reader Mike alerted us to this issue, noting the struggle from his point of view in the pharmacy line behind fellow customers taken by surprise.

“I’ve been in line at the pharmacy with many, many angry people, unaware that the change had even been made at the beginning of this year,” Mike writes. “Especially for those on a fixed income, this is an expense they did not need to incur.”

New glucose monitor systems usually have substantial rebates available, since buying a monitor locks the customer into buying that brand’s supplies. Not all consumers know this, though, and not all pharmacies will take the time to walk their customers through choosing a new meter.

We contacted Express Scripts to ask about the change, and they told us that the meter swap was sue to changes to preferred formulary that about 30% of their customers use. “Formulary” is health insurance-speak for “the drugs that we will cover.”

“[I]n the many instances when multiple products are clinically equivalent to one another, we – the nation, its employers, and its patients – are all better off when we choose the more affordable options,” an Express Scripts representative helpfully told Consumerist.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Tests Confirm High Level Of Possible Carcinogen In Pepsi Products

As recently as last summer, Pepsi was called out for continuing to use a controversial caramel coloring — one that is labeled a possible carcinogen and whose use is regulated in California — in spite of calls for an end to its use. New tests from our coworkers at Consumer Reports confirm that Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi One all contain significantly high levels of the ingredient.

The coloring agent has the mouthful name of 4-methylimidazole but is also known by 4-MEI. Under California law, beverages containing more than 29 micrograms of 4-MEI must come with a warning label.

CR tested various sodas, purchased in both California and New York, over two periods of time.

The first round of testing was done between April and September of 2013. During that time period, the California Pepsi drinks all showed high levels of 4-MEI with both Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One showing levels above the 29 microgram threshold.

For the New York Pepsi drinks tested during the April-September period, the 4-MEI levels were much, much higher. Tests on Pepsi in NY found 174.4 micrograms of the chemical. Diet Pepsi test turned up 182.7 micrograms, while Pepsi One had the highest level — 195.3 micrograms.

Testing again in December showed that the California Pepsi drinks were still hovering around the 29 microgram line. In that test, Diet Pepsi was below the threshold, but now regular Pepsi had surpassed it.

When CR tested the New York versions of these drinks again in December 2013, both Pepsi and Diet Pepsi had notably lower levels of 4-MEI, about in line with what had been found in California. However, the Pepsi One test still showed a significant level of 4-MEI — 160.8 micrograms.

Given that Pepsi can’t seem to consistently get its products under the 29 microgram line, Consumer Reports has asked the California Attorney General’s office to investigate to determine if the company is in violation of state law.

Pepsi’s explanation for the high levels of 4-MEI is typical corporate nonsense. From the CR article:

After we informed PepsiCo of our test results, the company issued a statement that said that Proposition 65 is based on per day exposure and not exposure per can. It also cited government consumption data that shows that the average amount of diet soda consumed by people who drink it is 100 milliliters per day, or less than a third of a 12-ounce can. For that reason, they believe that Pepsi One does not require cancer-risk warning labels—even if the amount of 4-MEI in a single can exceeds 29 micrograms.

Who in the world is only drinking 100 milliliters of diet soda a day? Most diet cola drinkers I know have recycling bins full of empties and consume the stuff compulsively.

In a statement to the L.A. Times, the company expressed some concern but was defensive, making a vague accusation about CR’s testing.

“We are extremely concerned about Consumer Reports’ allegation that one of our products exceeds the Prop. 65 standard and requires a warning label,” said Pepsi. “We believe their conclusion is factually incorrect and reflects a serious misunderstanding of Prop. 65’s requirements.”

Comparing Pepsi 4-MEI levels to its competitors, most of the other tested beverages were well below the 29 microgram threshold, regardless of location. For example, only around 4 micrograms of 4-MEI was found in Coke purchased on both coasts. Likewise, Coke Zero and Diet Coke turned up even lower levels and showed no real difference between samples from California or New York.

Tests on A&W Root Beer came in just below the 29 microgram level, but showed no difference in 4-MEI levels between California and New York samples.

If you really hunger for 4-MEI, Malta Goya showed through-the-roof levels of the chemical in all samples, regardless of location. The most recent tests found 316.1 micrograms of the chemical in California and 307.5 in New York.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Study: Texting While Walking Turns You Into A Robot, A Menace To Society And Yourself

Whenever I’m walking and texting I am fully aware of death glares shot my way by my fellow pedestrians. And I know why — they expect me to not pay attention and bumble right into them, so I try not to text for too long. But you could also be hurting yourself with this ambulatory multi-tasking, say Australian researchers in a new study.

Using movie special-effects technology to capture the movements we make while walking, the University of Queensland researchers say that texting and walking affects your balance and the ability to walk straight. Add in to all that and you can damage your posture while doing the text ‘n’ walk, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“I was checking emails while walking to work this morning,” confessed one of the study’s co-authors. “But it has a serious impact on the safety of people who type or read text while walking.”

Then there are the stories — some of which you’ve probably heard or something like it: A tourist walking off a pier while checking Facebook; not paying attention to your surroundings and walking into traffic. Maybe one time you were asking for tacos on the Internet and got mugged while flashing your phone around. Maybe.

Anyway, the study links the growth of mobile-phone usage to the number of phone-related accidents. The more people tippety tapping and swiping away, the more likely there will be those doing so on the move. Another study recently showed the the number of emergency-room visits connected to using phones while walking doubled to 1,500 between 2005 and 2010.

In the new study, researchers found that subjects walked slower and took shorter steps, especially when typing, and ended up moving around like robots, with locked arms and elbows, said researchers. They then moved their heads more to make up for that weird motion, making their balance not so great.

“In a pedestrian environment, inability to maintain a straight path would be likely to increase potential for collisions, trips and traffic accidents,” said the co-author. “The best thing to do is to step aside and stop, or keep off the phone.”

Some countries are trying to combat this zombie-like phenomenon of shuffling, unaware pedestrians. Hong Kong has subway signs warning passengers to pay attention, while in Singapore officials are blaming the rising number of road deaths on people distracted by their phones at street crossings. New York and Arkansas are among the U.S. states considering banning phone jaywalking.

Can’t Walk the Walk? Stop Texting! [Wall Street Journal]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Is Target Shaving Workers’ Hours So It Doesn’t Have To Insure Them?

Earlier this week, Target announced that it would no longer offer health insurance to part-time employees (those who work fewer than 32 hours per week), while at the same time claiming that it would not be trimming employees’ schedules so that they no longer qualify as full-time workers. However, some Target employees tell Consumerist that company execs aren’t telling the truth.

In a Target blog post, Target’s Exec. VP for Human Resources Jodee Kozlak provided a vague denial to a question about whether employees’ hours would be trimmed because of this decision to no longer insure part-timers, but some Target insiders see things differently.

One employee, who has worked at the store for more than a decade, says that as 2013 came to an end, his store began revising its shifts in a way that cut many workers’ hours to fewer than 30 per week.

The employee says this is not just affecting sales floor staff but specialty teams — the price change team, planogram team, in-stock team — that had traditionally been full-time jobs (36-40 hours a week), but now qualify as part-time employment.

“Recently these teams have been having their hours cut below 30 and they have been supplementing them by having sales floor people help with their workloads during their normal shifts,” writes the Target vet.

He estimates that the recent changes have cut the number of insurance-eligible employees at his store by 80%. Additionally, he says that his store is now hiring primarily part-time workers, something it had never done after the holiday season.

When contacted by Consumerist about these claims from its employees, a rep for the retailer first sent a link to the Kozlak blog post — the very thing I had referenced in my query — and then provided the following statement:

Target is committed to staffing our stores to meet the needs of our guests and business. All of our hourly team members provide the hours they are available to work and Target builds schedules around their availability and the needs of the business. All team members looking for more hours are continually encouraged to consider opening their availability or cross-training in other areas to maximize their schedule availability. At any time, our team members can talk to their manager about their interest and availability to work more hours. In fact, during the holiday season we offered our year-round part time and full time team members the opportunity to take on additional hours or cross-train to work in other areas — at their request.

If you work for Target and want to share your insight into whether or not employees’ hours are being cut to below the 32-hour/week threshold, send us an e-mail at with TARGET INSIDER in the subject line. We will never share your identity or which particular store you work at with the public or anyone at Target.

In other Target-related news, the company laid off 475 employees yesterday, most of them from its Minneapolis HQ. Additionally, it will not replace 700 currently vacant positions. This is the largest number of employees let go since the nadir of the great recession in 2009.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Truck Spills Massive Amount Of Beer On Same Ramp That Was Covered In Chicken A Week Ago

You may remember last week, when a truck overturned outside of Atlanta and spilled some 40,000 pounds of frozen chicken on the road. This morning, that same highway ramp was doused in beer after a very similar incident.

WSBTV reports that the incident occurred around 2 a.m. on the ramp connecting I-285 and I-20 in DeKalb County, GA.

The overturned truck spilled pallets of Bud Light all over the road, closing down the ramp for several hours. No one appears to have been hurt, though we imagine the unfortunate clean-up crew that had to sweep up all that busted beer will likely carry around that smell for the rest of the day.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this is the exact same ramp that was the site of last week’s chicken spill.

At this rate, we’re predicting a third truck loaded with some sort of snack will overturn on this ramp, completing the party food trifecta. We’re not superstitious, but if we were hauling pallets of any of the following — frozen pizza, soda, mixed nuts, chips, or any sort of dip — we’d probably avoid this particular ramp for the time being.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Netflix Would Ask Consumers To Protest If ISPs Try Blocking Or Throttling Service

The upshot of last week’s federal appeals court ruling that tossed out the core of the FCC’s net neutrality rule is that Internet Service Providers can now impede access to competing or data-hogging websites by downgrading or blocking these content providers. Netflix, the country’s single largest devourer of bandwidth, had been relatively quiet on this ruling, until yesterday, when it shared its view of the future of net neutrality with investors.

In its quarterly earnings report [PDF], Netflix dedicates an entire section to the issue of net neutrality (see p. 6 of the report).

“In principle, a domestic ISP now can legally impede the video streams that members request from Netflix, degrading the experience we jointly provide. The motivation could be to get Netflix to pay fees to stop this degradation,” explains the company. “Were this draconian scenario to unfold with some ISP, we would vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver.”

That said, the company believes that this potential for consumer blowback and how it would likely “galvanize government action” to reinstate net neutrality, is enough for ISPs to “avoid this consumer-unfriendly path of discrimination.”

Interestingly enough, Netflix does specifically call on legislators or the FCC to right the errors of those who originally crafted net neutrality but failed to see the obvious ways in which it would fail a legal challenge.

“In the long-term, we think Netflix and consumers are best served by strong network neutrality across all networks, including wireless,” explains the company. “To the degree that ISPs adhere to a meaningful voluntary code of conduct, less regulation is warranted.”

Netflix does end this section of the report with a caveat that it’s not ruling out the possibility that government intervention might be required: “To the degree that some aggressive ISPs start impeding specific data flows, more regulation would clearly be needed.”

[via The Verge]

by Chris Morran via Consumerist