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Sorry, since hardly anyone seems to be reading I've given up manually reposting everything for now. Maybe we can pick and choose articles on which we'd like to comment, or just have an Open Thread post once in a while. 
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Ariane Chisholm's profile photoNed Andre's profile photoKaren Rayinte's profile photoConsumerist unofficial reposting/commenting page's profile photo
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That's OK, I don't think it's worth reposting all the articles here. If there are any in particular you want to discuss with other commenters, I can post them or give you access to post them here.
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Let’s say that you commute from a relatively rural area, and work in a dense urban environment. Driving is the best way to get to your office, but taking a shuttle from a distant off-site garage or fighting for street parking is such a hassle. What do you do? If you’re a certain information technology worker for the state of New York, you forge a note from your doctor granting you a handicapped parking space, then assume that you’ll never be caught. Now, instead of a luxurious parking space right near his office, he’s in jail, and could face up to four years in prison.

The state Inspector General’s office didn’t disclose what medical problem the 27-year-old man claimed to have, but he also filled in time sheets stating that he was working at times that he wasn’t. He faces four felony counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and one misdemeanor count of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree.
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Max Handelsman's profile photo
 
A firing squad would be too quick.
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McDonald’s is a massive, global company. As such, it can stand to save piles of cash in the long-run by making some minor changes that cut down on its energy costs. But the largest chunk of McDonald’s CO2 footprint involves a product for which the company claims there are no sustainability standards: the beef in its burgers.

In an interview with Bloomberg, McDonald’s VP of sustainability says about two-thirds of the company’s carbon footprint comes not from the many thousands of eateries, but from the supply chain that provides the ingredients to the restaurants:

The biggest sustainability impact is the raising of the cattle in the fields and ranches, which is about three to four steps removed from McDonald’s. Can we say we’re buying any sustainable beef today? No, we can’t. Could we be buying sustainable beef? We might be. What I mean by that is that there are no standards, measures, accountability and traceability to make those claims today.

But lest you think this is a request for the federal government to come up with sustainability standards, he adds that McDonald’s is hoping to “use our size and influence to work with the industry and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to come up with definitions of sustainable beef.”

On the question of whether buying locally raised food is more environmentally friendly, the VP claims that locally grown may not always be the most efficient.

“We’ve done our analysis of transportation impacts,” he explains. “It’s one of the smallest slices there is, in terms of our own profile. Sometimes it can be more efficient to do it elsewhere and use transportation to move it somewhere else because the production is more efficient.”
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Ned Andre's profile photo
 
Sustainable = does it keep the weight on your frame
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At this rate it feels like we’re going to be haunted by the specter of student loan debt for the rest of our nation’s history: A new record one-in-five households in America, about 19%, owed student debt in 2010. That’s more than twice what it was 20 years ago and is a big uptick from the 15% that owed in 2007 before the Great Recession hit and made all our money woes worse.

A Pew Research Center analysis took advantage of some newly available government data to come up with the results, which are a bit staggering. In all the households headed by someone younger than 35, 40% of those owed student debt, which was the biggest share of any of the age groups.
The research also found that when you total up a household’s income or assets, the amount of student loan debt owed is more in the bottom fifth of the income groups, even if people in those households were less likely to go to college in the first place. In fact since 2007, student debt has spread across the board, spanning age groups and economic statuses and getting bigger as it goes.

The average outstanding student loan balance went from $23,349 per household in 2007 to $26,682 in 2010. Most did have less than $50,000 in outstanding debt in 2010 but more households owed a higher amount of debt.

Part of the reason this could be happening is that students are going back to school or taking on more debt in tough economic times — when jobs are scarce so is money, and the only way to provide an income sometimes is to take out student loans.
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Capricia Pallasso's profile photoKaren Rayinte's profile photoMax Handelsman's profile photoConsumerist unofficial reposting/commenting page's profile photo
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If other people are still having trouble, I wouldn't mind--but maybe we should check with actual-for-real Consumerist staff.
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Earlier this year, the growing trend of colleges disbursing financial aid payments to students on debit cards came under fire from consumer advocates and some legislators as it highlighted the too-blurry line between schools and financial institutions. But some students are crying foul over the cards simply because they are a huge pain in the butt if you don’t want to be stuck with ATM fees.

The nation’s largest provider of these debit cards is a company called Higher One. And if students want to avoid having their cash drained by fees, they need to find an ATM that is part of the Higher One network. For one student at San Joaquin Delta College in California that could more than an hour round-trip.

“At least 35 to 40 minutes out of my way, one direction just to get to an ATM,” he tells CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming.

If he doesn’t make that drive, he’ll be hit with a $2.50 for using a non-Higher One ATM, plus another $2 to $3 from whatever bank is operating that ATM.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group accuses Higher One of using “scare tactics,” and that students are not told they can still opt to get their financial aid via check to then deposit in whatever bank they wish.

“They tell students that if they want their money as soon as it’s available, the only option where they can do that is getting the money in a Higher One debit card,” a U.S. PIRG advocate claims.

In a rather lengthy statement to CBS, Higher One says U.S. PIRG’s “accusations are false… US PIRG is spreading misinformation about our business and has been for months.”

The company says that, per federal guidelines, students have the choice whether or not to receive their funds via paper check, direct deposit or through Higher One. “ALL 3 OPTIONS are always free for the student and they will never be charged to receive their money,” says Higher One, which claims there are no hidden fees associated with their accounts, and that less than 50% of its total revenues come from fees.

When asked by CBS why it charges the ATM fees to students in the first place, Higher One replied:

Have you been following the news? Bank fees are on the rise. Read Forbes, CNN, Time, any outlet. We are constantly keeping our accounts low cost for students. Just because you see a charge on a fee schedule doesn’t mean the accountholder incurs that fee. And if you have it, I’m happy to review the information you have that shows any banks that offer checking accounts for students are absolutely free.

The bottom line is this: If you’re a student considering getting your financial aid on a debit card, you should look at how many in-network ATMs are in the area of your home and campus. You should also compare ATM fees charged by banks in the area because they could be higher than the ones assessed by the debit card company.
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Kristie Menere's profile photoMax Handelsman's profile photo
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No shit. If they aren't going to offer easy access to the students, there should be no fees inquired on their part. I have an itty bitty credit union but can get money almost any credit union without an ATM fee.
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In the time since Amazon launched its streaming video service — which includes a library of free movies and TV shows for members of Amazon Prime — it has grown to become a competitor for Netflix, especially after that company angered many customers by doubling the subscription rate for customers who wanted to keep receiving DVDs by mail. But Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’s not worried about Amazon, and in fact, he’s not quite sure what they’re offering consumers.

“In the U.S., our content budget is about three times [Amazon's], and we’ve got about three times more content,” he tells the Wall Street Journal. “And what our customers tell us is they want Netflix to have more content, not to have two-thirds less at a lower price. That’s not that interesting a proposition for them. [Amazon has its Prime membership service] and it’s really about low-cost shipping, but why is video in there? It’s kind of a confusing mess.”

Amazon Prime costs members $79/year, as opposed to the $96/year Netflix charges to streaming-only customers in the U.S. Prime was initially a program that offered frequent customers a way to get free two-day shipping on many items.

“We can do a better user experience on video because it’s our only business,” says Hastings. “The way we do algorithms to choose which content is shown to you is much better than Amazon’s, much better than Hulu’s. They’ve got talented teams, but they’re doing a lot of other things and we’re focused on this one area.”
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Ned Andre's profile photoMax Handelsman's profile photo
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Eh, they both have their strengths. I've used both. For me the issue is that they're not easy to use on a TV. For example, my TiVo will allow me to watch Netflix, but only what's in my Instant Queue. The Roku gives you the most flexibility IIRC, but then that's another box I have to have hooked up. 
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The kids are barely back in school, but in American retail, it’s Christmas. Here are two new entries in the annals of Christmas creepiness: department store Kohl’s and closeout chain Ollie’s.

Kohl’s being Kohl’s, of course, the Christmas merch is already on sale. Well, “sale.” Consumerist reader SC sent this photo along from a Midwestern store on September 21.

Reader Jay snapped this picture at Ollie’s on September 17th. “I watched for a minute and listened to the two unhappy employees discussing how ridiculous it was to be putting them out this early with people walking around in shorts and flip flops,” he writes. Yes.
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When Brett’s dad bought a new computer with a shinier operating system, he had to purchase a new version of the accounting software Quickbooks for use on more than one computer. No big deal: Quickbooks comes with multiple licenses so users can install it on more than one computer after buying only one copy. There was no mention of needing multiple licenses for multiple computers in the sales documentation. That’s when Brett learned that you can’t make purchases based on how a product’s specifications used to be. A second license actually costs more than a single copy of Quickbooks.

Brett writes:
My father decided it was time to upgrade his computer, which meant updating all of his software in the process. In the past, when he’s purchased QuickBooks Pro, it has come with support for multiple users with no additional license requirements. I was sure to check out the Amazon listing to make sure that the new version still supports multiple users, and see if there were any additional requirements. Nowhere on the page does it mention that an additional license must be purchased for each computer. It discusses “Multi user support”, but that’s all.

We didn’t discover the new license requirements until after the program had been installed on two computers, and they went to use it simultaneously. At this point, the Company Data had been updated to the latest version and had been in use for several days. On the secondary computer, a message popped up saying a new license must be purchased, and prompts you to call sales. Upon calling and explaining that we never saw anything about additional licenses being required during the purchase process, we were told effectively “tough luck.”

At this point I figure that they’re out for the quick buck, and maybe an additional license was cheaper than the full price of $160. A price of $20 or so would be reasonable I would think. Nope, they want $230! After getting into a loop with the customer service rep, I asked for a supervisor. “Camila” gave me the same boilerplate response, but said she could help me out by offering me a discount of 20%. Which is still more than the Amazon listing. After talking to her, I learned that I can just buy another copy from Amazon for cheaper and it will solve the problem.

Here we are over $300 later getting the advertised functionality of the $160 product, which adds little to no useful functionality aside from being compatible with the newest version of Windows. For all he cared, my father could have stuck with his 10 year old copy of QuickBooks and been happy. This will be the last copy of QuickBooks he’ll ever buy. Or any other Intuit product for that matter. He’ll also be telling all of his customers (also small businesses) that Intuit is running a bait and switch operation.
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Ned Andre's profile photo
 
Ahhhh Quickbooks.
They are a pain in the ass to deal with.
Any small clients we had that used Quickbooks have mostly moved off it.
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