Home » Archives by category » Business News (Page 9)

How a Little-Known Passport Rule Could Ruin Your Vacation

How a Little-Known Passport Rule Could Ruin Your Vacation

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Jack Edelstein and his family were excited about their two-week vacation to Israel in June but it never got off the ground.

Unlike many others whose travel to the region was delayed because of rising tensions, the Edelstein family trip was thwarted by the upcoming November expiration of 13-year-old son Jesse’s passport, meaning that it had less than six months of remaining validity.

“We were stunned as I had never come across this issue in over 40 years of international flying,” Edelstein, an Ann Arbor-based real estate developer, told ABC News.

Edelstein is one of a growing number of Americans who make travel plans not knowing that passports effectively expire for travel to certain countries months before the listed expiration date.

The policy is technically a matter of reciprocity: The United States requires foreign visitors to have six months validity on their passports when they travel to America, and now many of those countries have returned the favor to American travelers. Recent changes to requirements for countries in the European Union’s Schengen area, which includes tourist-heavy countries like France, Italy and Spain, have caused some travel heartache.

“In the last few months, we have heard of many U.S. citizens having their travel plans disrupted due to some European countries, particularly those in the Schengen area, strictly enforcing passport validity requirements,” Elizabeth Finan, a spokeswoman for United States Consular Affairs, told ABC.

“Additionally, some E.U. countries are requiring passports to have six months’ validity because they assume travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors,” she said.

The State Department lists the passport requirements on each country’s travel advisory website, though few travelers seek the information out unless they have concerns about the safety of a region or possible visa requirements.

For their part, travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz make mention of passport expiration restrictions on their sites, but there is no notification or alert that warns passengers of possible problems before they arrive at the airport.

“Requiring that information at the time of booking just isn’t feasible,” Orbitz spokesman Chris Chiames told ABC. “Someone sees a bargain online. Makes an impromptu decision to go to Paris next April. Buys the ticket and worries about the passport later. Happens all the time.”

Airlines are in a similar situation, as a representative from British Airways said that “it is the responsibility of the passenger to ensure they acquire the proper documentation before departure” and United’s spokesman said that it “encourages” passengers to make sure they have all proper documents.

American Airlines provides similar information for customers who seek it out, though spokesman Matt Miller admitted that it is more difficult for them to control what users know when booking through third-party sites.

“The onus is on the passenger to know where they’re traveling and what that country requires,” he told ABC.

Delta and JetBlue did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Rick Seaney, the co-founder of FareCompare.com, said that the tough economy in the past five or six years has led to fewer people taking international trips, meaning that when they do finally decide to head out of the country, they assume that their passports are still valid from their last trip.

On a larger scale, he says, the policies themselves are more a reflection of other countries wanting to be “punitive” for the U.S. restrictions on foreign visitors.

“By basically charging folks for visas into the U.S., all the other countries basically reciprocated by saying, ‘Now you have to have visas with us’ because we tightened up our rules,” Seaney told ABC.

Just as the exact requirements differ for each country, the outcomes change per passenger. Some people in major cities are able to push back their flights, and rush to an emergency passport facility to get a new, up-to-date passport within a day or two in an attempt to salvage some of their existing hotel reservations.

Others, like the Edelsteins, had to plan the trip over again completely. Edelstein said that the cost of rebooking the flights for himself, his wife, and his 13-year-old twins in August came to about $4,000.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Atlantic City’s Revel Casino to Shut Its Doors Next Month

Atlantic City’s Revel Casino to Shut Its Doors Next Month

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) — New Jersey’s casino industry is taking another hit.

Revel announced on Tuesday that it will be closing its doors no later than Sept. 10, two years after the Atlantic City casino opened.

“Despite the effort to improve the financial performance of Revel, it has not proven to be enough to put the property on a stable financial footing. This situation is compounded by the considerable non-controllable expense structure that has financially burdened the property,” Revel said in a statement.

“In addition, challenges have arisen in our attempts to sell Revel as a going concern. While we continue to hope for a sale of Revel, in some form, through the pending bankruptcy process, Revel cannot avoid an orderly wind down of the business at this time,” it added.

The closure will put 3,000 people out of work.

“We regret the impact this decision has on our Revel employees who have worked so hard to maximize the potential of the property. We thank them for their professionalism and dedication,” Revel said.

Revel is the third Atlantic City casino to recently announce an impending closure. It’s a blow to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who injected $260 million into Revel as part of a plan to revitalize Atlantic City amid competition from neighboring states.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

‘Yo’ App Updates with ‘Whole New World of Possibilities’

‘Yo’ App Updates with ‘Whole New World of Possibilities’

Yo(NEW YORK) — The “Yo” app has grown up.

New updates released Tuesday for the app show it’s trying to be more than just a gimmick.

“This version shows the real power of the Yo platform which is, at its most basic, a 2-way communication platform between people, websites, brands, businesses and virtually anything that can connect to the internet,” co-founder Or Arbel wrote in a Medium post announcing the new features.

“While at first glance this version looks the same as the earlier ones, digging a little deeper unveils a whole new world of possibilities,” he said.

The app has been called everything from pointless to amazing for its simple premise, allowing users to send a “yo” to friends with just one tap. It has also raised millions of dollars in funding.

If you’re an avid “Yo” user or want to give it a try now, here’s what to expect from the updates:

Edit Yo Profile

Because Yo usernames aren’t necessarily associated with a person’s real name, they will now have the option to build an abbreviated profile that includes their full name and photo. Other contacts can see this information by swiping right on the person’s username.

Yo Links

Read something that catches your attention? Send a link via “Yo” to a friend.

“Now when you get a Yo from your favorite tech blog, news outlet, Instagram persona or any other Yo service, we’ll bring you straight to the source,” Arbel wrote.

Users will still get the “yo” message, along with an asterisk to indicate there’s a link attached.

Yo Hashtags

“How many Yos does your hashtag have?” could be the new “I have more followers than you.”

Anyone can create a hashtag on Yo, and then other users can support it by “Yoing” it.

Brands, TV shows, blogs and website owners can also proudly display their hashtag count by using Yo’s new hashtag count generator.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

US Postal Service Reports $2B Loss in Third Quarter

US Postal Service Reports $2B Loss in Third Quarter

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Postal Service is losing even more money.

Despite seeing increased revenue across all products, the USPS on Monday reported a $2 billion loss in the quarter ending June 30 — a significant increase from a $740 million loss this time last year.

In fact, over the last 23 quarters, the agency has reported a loss in every single quarter but two. The two exceptions were because Congress rescheduled retiree payments.

The Postal Service has seen decreasing volumes for a number of years and faces growing operational expenses as well as increased consumer preference for private shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

The Business of Robin Williams, by the Numbers

The Business of Robin Williams, by the Numbers

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) — The late Robin Williams’ most iconic roles touched many of our hearts: he made us laugh, he made us cry, he made us experience the theater, stage and television like so few in his craft could. But Robin Williams, who died at age 63 Monday in a suspected suicide, was also an economy in himself.

Here is Robin Williams by the numbers:

  • As an actor and producer, Williams’ movies have grossed over $6 billion at the worldwide box office. He is credited 68 times in leading, supporting, cameo, producer and other miscellaneous roles.
  • He has been credited as a leading man 32 times, movies that have generated $3.7 billion worldwide with Williams’ name at the headline (or roughly $115.6 million per film, on average).
  • Williams was paid in 1992 just $75,000, the Screen Actors Guild scale, for the voice of the iconic Genie in Aladdin. The film would go on to become a blockbuster, generating over $500 million at the worldwide box office.
  • Williams was married three times: first to Valerie Velardi, with whom he had his first child (often credited with his early sobriety); then to Marsha Garces, with whom he had two children; and, finally, to Susan Schneider in 2011. Williams reportedly paid roughly $30 million in divorce settlements to his two ex-wives.
  • His net worth at the time of his death was reportedly around $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, although it has been estimated as high as $130 million. Since April 2014, his home in Napa Valley, California, is on the market for $29.9 million.
  • His first starring role in Popeye paid the then 29-year-old actor $500,000. His highest-paying movie, 1999′s Bicentennial Man, paid him a reported $20 million, putting him in the same echelon as Will Smith, Sandra Bullock and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Williams’ early TV career included the breakout role as the quirky alien Mork in Mork and Mindy. He signed a contract reportedly valued at $3 million over five years. The show ran for 92 episodes, giving Williams an average of $32,600 per episode. By contrast, his 2013 show, The Crazy Ones, paid him $165,000 per episode.
  • Mork and Mindy was the third-most popular television series of the 1978-79 season (behind Laverne and Shirley and Three’s Company). The show averaged 55 to 60 million viewers per week. By comparison, this year’s most-watched sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, averages just under 20 million viewers per week.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

America’s New Jobs Pay Less than the Old Ones

America’s New Jobs Pay Less than the Old Ones

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Critics of the economic recovery who’ve called it a “soft” rebound following the Great Recession may have some ammunition to back up their claims based on an analysis released Monday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On the positive side, all the jobs lost during the steep economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 have since been recovered.

However, the new jobs that have replaced the old ones pay an average of 23 percent less than what people were earning before the recession.

That explains why the U.S. median annual household income is lower than it was a decade ago.

According to the Conference of Mayors report, many of the higher-paying manufacturing and construction jobs have gone by the wayside. In their place are positions in the hospitality and healthcare fields, which have always paid less.

Americans who stayed in the top 20 percent of earners since 2005 have enjoyed 60 percent of the nation’s income gains while those at the bottom 40 percent only managed a 6.6 percent boost in income.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Use a Speakerphone at Work? Knock It Off

Use a Speakerphone at Work? Knock It Off

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Most people have fixed routines at work. Unfortunately, those habits, which some might refer to as “quirks,” might very well bug your co-workers.

The staffing firm Accountemps conducted a survey of the biggest irritants at work (that don’t include the boss or the job itself) and found that 36 percent of respondents said what bothered them the most was an associate who either used a speakerphone or just plain talked loudly on the phone.

Another pet peeve at the office is the co-worker who likes to hang around your desk and chat even when you’re not interested in carrying on a conversation. Twenty-three percent of respondents listed the talky desk fly as their top irritant.

Meanwhile, 15 percent said that people who eat food at their desk that emit strong odors is their number one gripe at work.

Other things that make the work experience less enjoyable — if it was enjoyable to begin with — are co-workers who smell bad, people who dress inappropriately for work and the always popular messy desk.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

British Airways Loses Woman’s Luggage in ‘Travel Nightmare’

British Airways Loses Woman’s Luggage in ‘Travel Nightmare’

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Nora Low was among thousands of British Airways passengers flying out of London’s Heathrow Airport who discovered when she landed that her luggage was missing thanks to a computer glitch.

“Horrible, for four days, British Airways didn’t ship any luggage,” Low told ABC News’ 20/20. “So they told me about 40,000 bags had been misplaced.”

Low was flying from a two-week business tip in Amsterdam to her brother’s birthday celebration in Lake Tahoe, California, in June.

“It completely ruined my vacation,” she said. “I had about $4,000 worth of clothing in it.”

“Not only did their customer service stop taking phone calls; their voicemail filled up, and they weren’t allowing you to leave a message.”

With no answers, Low took to Twitter to vent her frustration.

“I just started tweeting,” she said. “That’s when I started to realize that there were other people that were tweeting the same. And we formed a little army and just kept retweeting.”

It wasn’t until after ABC News spotted Low’s tweets and she tweeted at British Airways that ABC News was doing a story about how the airline lost her luggage that the airline finally contacted Low.

“I got a call from British Airways saying they were going to help me with my claim,” Low said.

In a statement to 20/20, the carrier said, “We are very sorry that Ms. Low’s luggage was misplaced during a time of disruption at Heathrow. The airport teams have been working very hard to locate the luggage, but on the rare occasion we are unable to find a bag…we will make sure a customer is compensated.”

Low recently told ABC News that she received a $1,750 check for her lost items from British Airways and an additional $500 “goodwill” payment, but the $2,250 is still short of the $4,000 worth of missing items she says were in her bag.

“Travel nightmare; lesson learned the hard way,” Low said. “I’m never going to check a bag ever again.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Five Apps to Make You the Most Charming Person in the Room

Five Apps to Make You the Most Charming Person in the Room

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Who needs charm school when you can download these apps?

Not everyone is born with charisma and panache, but the “app for anything” age is making it easier for you to fake it until you make it.

Here are five apps that can improve your existing relationships and maybe even help charm your way into new social circles.

1. Humin

The awkward moment has happened to everyone: You meet someone at a social event and say, “Nice to meet you.” Then the person reminds you that you’ve previously met.

Remembering names and little details is a surefire way to make friends and build relationships.

Humin, a free app which launches in the Apple app store on Aug. 14, allows users to capture the moment every time they meet someone new. Humin also stands out because it throws away the alphabetical list and instead lets users search the way they naturally think.

For instance: “Met on a flight to London” or “Met last week.”

2. Swarm

Foursquare’s breakaway app, Swarm, takes the functionality of the check-in but makes it even easier for users to make impromptu plans with friends.

The “nearby plans” icon allows users to send a shout-out to their friends to gauge interest in activities.

Not only is the function great for friends for a pick-up game of soccer, but it also makes it easy to plan a party.

If John writes, “Party at my place tonight. Let me know what you’re bringing,” friends can easily reply to the thread — making event planning a breeze.

Swarm is available for iPhone and Android.

3. PayPal

Money and friends don’t go hand-in-hand, so having an app to accommodate financial transactions may do wonders to preserve your relationships.

There are a slew of options that are great for sharing expenses with friends, including Cover, Splitwise and Venmo.

PayPal, an online money transfer pioneer, also has a multi-functional app that allows users to split bills, chip in for gifts, pay back friends and even complete everyday retail transactions.

The app is free to download and is available for iPhone, Android and Windows devices.

4. Mixology

Many great friendships start over a good drink. It doesn’t hurt to have an app, that is more like a bartender’s Bible, at your fingertips.

The Mixology app boasts more than 8,000 drink recipes, allowing users to search by ingredient, category, or, for the adventurous, find a random recipe.

The app is available for iPhone and Android.

5. Heads Up!

If you’re stuck on a train/plane/waiting room or are just at a really boring party, “Heads Up!” is a fast and easy way to lighten the mood.

One player holds the phone up to their forehead and tries to guess the word or person from clues other players give. When the person holding the phone guesses correctly, they tilt the phone down, and when they pass, they tilt it up.

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Stocks Climb on Monday

Stocks Climb on Monday

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) –  Stocks closed higher on Monday, continuing an upward climb from last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average went up 16.05 points, closing at 16,569.98. The Nasdaq went up 30.43 points, ending the day at 4,401.33, and the S&P 500 gained 5.33 points to 1,936.92.

Business leaders in Nevada want a special legislature session by the end of the year to put together an incentive package to help lure Tesla Motors to build a $5 billion battery factory in the state.  

Gas prices have dropped an average of $0.06 per gallon over the last two weeks. National gas prices now sit at around $3.52 per gallon.

And more people are traveling — Priceline says its profit for the second quarter was up by 32% and shares were up 2%.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Google Invests in $300 Million Underwater Cable

Google Invests in $300 Million Underwater Cable

NEC Corporation(NEW YORK) — Even the largest ocean in the world isn’t going to get in Google’s way.

The search giant announced on Monday it is joining five other companies to build a $300 million undersea cable system that will span the Pacific Ocean, making the Internet faster for users in Asia.

The high-speed submarine cable, called Faster, will connect two coastal locations in Japan with major West Coast cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Once complete, the cable will operate at 60 terabits per second, which is about 10 million times faster than the typical cable modem, Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, said Monday in a Google+ post.

“At Google we want our products to be fast and reliable, and that requires a great network infrastructure, whether it’s for the more than a billion Android users or developers building products on Google Cloud Platform,” Hölzle said. “And sometimes the fastest path requires going through an ocean.”

Construction on Faster will begin immediately, according to a news release from NEC, the IT and network technology company that was awarded the contract to lay the cable. The project is scheduled to make its debut sometime during the second quarter of 2016.

It’s not the first time Google has gone underwater to improve Internet speed. In 2008, the company invested in cable that connected Southeast Asia and Japan.

The company also backed UNITY, another Trans-Pacific cable system between the United States and Japan that debuted in 2010. The cable has a capacity of 7.68 terabits per second, according to Submarine Cable Networks, meaning that the newly backed cable system will blow it out of the water.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wyoming Most Expensive State to Operate a Vehicle, Study Shows

Wyoming Most Expensive State to Operate a Vehicle, Study Shows

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wyoming is the most expensive state to operate a motor vehicle, according to a new study by Bankrate.

After gathering data on the cost of gas, insurance and repairs in all 50 states, researchers came up with an average cost to operate a vehicle for one year in each state. They found that the typical driver in Wyoming spends $2,705 on his or her car — almost $500 more than the national average of $2,223.

“At the top of the list is Wyoming, and if I had to guess, I’d say that’s probably going to surprise some people, but Wyoming is just such a very large state, and we found there that what pushed them to the top of the list is that residents in Wyoming are driving a lot more than the average U.S. driver,” says Bankrate analyst Stacy Jones.

On the other end of the spectrum is Iowa, where the typical driver spends an average of $1,942 each year, making it the cheapest state to operate a motor vehicle.

“What you’re going to see kind of in all regards, when you’re just comparing prices across the country, is that the Midwest tends to be more affordable when compared to other states. You know, we have Wisconsin, we have Iowa, we have Idaho there, so they’re just going to be a little bit cheaper. Really, it’s the insurance that tends to be a lot cheaper compared to other states, and the repair costs too,” Jones says.

She says there are things drivers can do to try to keep their costs down.

“The biggest thing that I think people should take away from this is just to look for ways that they can individually save some money. You can try to call up your insurance company. A lot of times, the easiest way to find out if you qualify for discounts — you’ve just got to make that phone call,” Jones says.  

“You want to keep up with your routine maintenance, and then you also just want to look for ways to be smart about how you’re driving. So maybe you need to combine all your errands into one trip, and figure out the best way to do it,” she adds.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Essential Items to Stock Up On Before School Starts

Essential Items to Stock Up On Before School Starts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The best categories for deals on back-to-school items are laptops, clothing and cheap furniture, according to Mark LoCastro, a shopping expert from DealNews.com.

“August is a great time for discounts on these items because there’s a convergence of end-of-summer clearance and back-to-school sales,” he said.

Back-to-school laptop sales typically begin in late June, ramp up in July, and begin to wane in September, LoCastro said, adding that sales typically come in the form of site-wide discounts, laptop bundles, or deals on individual systems.

Stores including Apple offer education pricing for students and teachers, so bring your school ID.

Apple started advertising its school deals in late July: get a $50 Apple Store Gift Card when you buy an iPad or iPhone for college; or a $100 gift card when you buy a Mac computer.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Study: Airline Ticket Prices Vary Wildly Among Seats on Same Flight

Study: Airline Ticket Prices Vary Wildly Among Seats on Same Flight

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Need another reason to complain about your airline seatmate? He or she may have spent less than half what you did for the ticket.

The price of airline tickets purchased within the same cabin can vary by as much as $1,400 on a single flight, according to a new study.

Researchers at Hopper.com said Monday morning that they’ve confirmed what disgruntled travelers have long suspected: Airlines can charge passengers wildly different rates for seats on the same flight.

The travel site, which examined millions of airfares across a number of domestic carriers, revealed that travelers can expect to pay anywhere between twice and eight times as much as their fellow passengers.

The research corroborates an informal study ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis conducted for the network on a flight last year, she said on Good Morning America Monday. En route from New York to Atlanta, travelers reported fares that ranged from $235 to $600.

Delta Airlines told Davis that “fares are determined by market supply and demand,” but the carrier could not comment further. Research, however, suggests that such economic forces do not affect all airlines equally.

Of the carriers it analyzed, Hopper found Spirit Airlines had the most uniform and consistent ticket pricing. Fares tended to vary by around 5 percent on Spirit, 15 percent on Virgin America and 18 percent on United Airlines.

And while Yahoo Travel editor in chief Paula Froelich agreed that “the findings from this study are pretty shocking,” she said the “upside to high price variability is that, yes, there are very good deals. If you can have the time and if you’ve got the planning, and it’s not last minute, you can get some really awesome deals.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Barney’s to Pay $525K in Racial Profiling Settlement

Barney’s to Pay $525K in Racial Profiling Settlement

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Barney’s has agreed to pay more than half a million dollars to settle racial profiling allegations.

The settlement stems from incidents in which customers reported they had been followed through the Madison Avenue flagship store in New York City. Others said they bought expensive items and were detained by police afterwards for credit card fraud. The customers all complained the incidents happened because of their skin color.

Now, Barney’s, where $2,500 tote bags and $390 mens’ shirts aren’t unusual, has agreed to pay $525,000 to settle the racial profiling allegations.

As part of the agreement with the New York State Attorney’s Office, Barney’s will also hire an anti-profiling consultant to help update and improve employee training on security policies.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Is a New Job Worth Givebacks?

Is a New Job Worth Givebacks?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — What would you be willing to sacrifice to get a new job?

Monster Worldwide put that question to 1,100 job seekers, and the results reveal that a small minority would be willing to give up some pay, benefits or vacation time to work elsewhere.

According to the survey, seven in 10 respondents were actively looking for a new job.

As for how far they’d go to get it, 13 percent would compromise on health care.

Meanwhile, 16 percent said they’d relinquish some vacation or personal time to work for another employer, while one in four conceded they’d work more hours.

Twenty percent would take less pay to work elsewhere, and 19 percent said they’d accept either no bonus, or one that was reduced.

The survey also reveals that 30 percent would adhere to a strict dress code at a new job, 28 percent said they’d commute a longer distance, and 26 percent were willing to accept a smaller office or desk space.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

No More Pencils, No More Books — It’s All About Computers in Classrooms

No More Pencils, No More Books — It’s All About Computers in Classrooms

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — If it hasn’t happened already, your kids will one day ask why notebooks, pencils and rulers were ever used in the classroom.

As of now, there are about 13.2 million computing devices in primary and secondary schools in the U.S., according to Education Market Research, which conducted a survey last spring.

The survey puts the number of desktops at 4.7 million, laptops at 3.9 million, and tablets at 2.3 million.

Meanwhile, there are estimated one million Chromebooks in grades K-12.

In other developments, EMR predicts that tablet spending is on pace to increase by 8.6 percent during the upcoming school year.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Judge Rejects $324.5 Million Apple-Google Hiring Settlement

Judge Rejects $324.5 Million Apple-Google Hiring Settlement

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) –  A federal judge tossed a proposed $324.5 million settlement involving hiring practices of Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in Silicon Valley, officials announced Friday.

The class-action antitrust case claimed the tech giants made an agreement not to hire each others’ employees, the New York Times reports.

Judge Lucy H. Koh said there was evidence the companies were involved in “an overarching conspiracy” against their employees, rejecting a proposed deal from April in which 64,000 class members were set to receive an estimated $4,000 each.

Koh claimed the case was stronger than the initial proposal and promoted another trial, unless an additional approved settlement is reached.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Toyota Says ‘We’re Football Fans Too,’ Won’t Show On-Field Ads

Toyota Says ‘We’re Football Fans Too,’ Won’t Show On-Field Ads

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — When the NFL pre-season officially kicked off this week, some fans were shocked to see giant on-field advertising by the likes of Toyota. These weren’t just perimeter ads you see on the sides of football stadiums, but giant lettering and letters digitally added to the red zone.

The advertising was evident on Thursday, when the Baltimore Ravens played the San Francisco 49ers, whose “exclusive auto partner” is Toyota.

When the teams played between the end zone and the 20-yard line, giant red letters showing “Toyota Red Zone” appeared on the field under players’ feet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

“I have seen TV ads during NFL games. I have seen graphics displayed on the field during NFL games. I have not seen anything quite like this from the Niners broadcast (through the NFL Network) before,” wrote SB Nation contributor Seth Rosenthal.

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, told ABC News that the on-field advertising will take place during the pre-season only.

“No league network partner is able to do this. This will not be during the regular season,” he said. “Teams are responsible for their pre-season telecasts.”

Sona Iliffe-Moon, a spokeswoman for Toyota, told ABC News that the car manufacturer won’t show the “Toyota Red Zone” anymore during the pre-season.

“We’re football fans too. We’ve heard fan feedback and it’s not our intention to distract from the joy of the game,” she said. “Toyota will continue to be a strong supporter of the 49ers as part of our multi-year partnership and we’re working to ensure that future brand mentions won’t distract from game play. During the remainder of the 49ers’ pre-season games, fans and viewers should no longer see the Toyota Red Zone once the ball is snapped.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Small Businesses Feel the Make-or-Break Power of Yelp

Small Businesses Feel the Make-or-Break Power of Yelp

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — It was the Yelp review that led to Yelp revenge.

After wedding guest Rabih Zahnan stayed the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York, for a friend’s wedding, he turned to the business-review website Yelp to write about what he thought was an abysmal stay.

“There was a musty order, it smelled bad, we kept the windows open for the entire time we were there,” Zahnan told Nightline.

But the Guest House fought back. Zahnan said he received an email from the inn saying there would be a $500 fine to the bride and groom for each negative review posted online by them or their guests.

The bride and groom apparently overlooked the fine print in their wedding contract put forth by the guest house, which said, “a $500 fine will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

As the story went viral this week, a collective consumer fury ensued, and the inn’s star rating on Yelp plummeted to a dismal 1.5 out of 5 stars as a barrage of users posted angry, and clearly facetious, reviews about the business. One person even called it “the worst hotel in history.”

Over the last few years, the Yelp review has taken on a life on its own, and has truly become make-or-break for businesses nationwide.

“Sometimes, one bad review can really destroy your business,” said Barry Butterfield, who owns a bed and breakfast around the corner from the Guest House. “You can lose thousands of dollars.”

In fact, over 50 million businesses worldwide occupy a presence on Yelp. A Harvard business school study found that even a one-star rating increase on Yelp translates to a sales increase of 5 to 9 percent.

But bad reviews can actually come back to bite the consumer. Some businesses threaten fines and even lawsuits over bad reviews.

“These lawsuits are a form of bullying,” said Evan Mascagni, the policy director for the Public Participation Project, an organization that raises awareness about strategic lawsuits against public participation. “It’s a tactic to silence your critics.”

James Demetriades owns the Landing Resort and Spa in Lake Tahoe. He admits to reading online reviews of his hotel all the time, but he took issue with the one comment he said went too far.

“In one case we had an individual who made extremely derogatory remarks about the manager, about the restaurant, about the food, about myself individually,” Demetriades said. “We decided to file suit against this person for defamation.”

Court records reveal the case was settled out of court with no money exchanged.

Business owners say that it’s the consumers writing the reviews who have all the power. But Demetriades says it’s Yelp who has the real power. He said he started to notice something strange about the way he said reviews were filtered on Yelp pages for his businesses.

“I began to notice at one of our restaurants a series of reviews, and those reviews were suddenly disappearing,” he said.

Demetriades said Yelp was filtering out legitimate reviews and also prioritizing reviews from Yelp’s elite users.

“Every service business that I know of will have bad reviews. That’s just part of being a business, it’s okay,” he said. “I’m not asking to remove any reviews. All I’m asking for, and I demand, is that people get to see all reviews that are real and legitimate.”

He is now suing Yelp in a California court for misrepresenting how well the site filters reviews. But Yelp stands behind their process.

“The reason consumers, 138 million of them, come to our site each month is because they trust the content,” said Vince Sollitto, the vice president of corporate communications for Yelp. “The reason they trust the content is because we take steps to protect them from being misled from reviews that are either been purchased by business or might be bias because they were solicited from a business owner’s friends or families.”

And Yelp regulators say fake online reviews are a real problem. Yelp recently helped New York’s Attorney General with a year-long undercover investigation dubbed “operation clean turf.” The authorities busted 19 companies who were writing phony reviews or commissioning people to write them. The companies were ordered to pay more than $350,000 in penalties.

Some business owners also claim that purchasing ads on Yelp will improve their business’ ranking or circulate more positive reviews. Just this week, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of some Yelp shareholders alleging that Yelp was doing just that.

Yelp says they have not been served with that suit but said the allegations were “without merit” and will be vigorously contested.

Sollitto also said that claims that Yelp is skewing results in favor of business owners who purchase ads on their site are “absolutely not” true.

“Businesses purchase advertising on Yelp, but nothing more,” he said. “Our recommendation software is designed to protect consumers and we treat advertisers and non-advertisers equally.”

In the wake of the bad review backlash at the Union Street Guest House, Butterfield said “a firestorm” has erupted and that businesses are more aware than ever that “all the money and power is on the side of Yelp.”

The Union Street Guest House declined to comment to Nightline, but earlier this week, the owner posted a statement on the inn’s Facebook page saying, “The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

But contrary to what some business owners might think, Yelp says negative reviews are the exception, not the rule.

“I think that the biggest misconception about Yelp is that it’s a site where people go to complain or whine, in fact, 80 percent of all the reviews on Yelp or so, are three stars or more,” Sollitto said. “And that’s because most people’s experiences with small businesses are positive. And that’s really what comes through on Yelp.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Advertise With Us

Would you like to advertise on East Idaho News? Fill out this form to contact a representative.
  • Full and Last
  • The name of your company, business or brand.