Monthly Archives: June 2015

Consumers May Not Know They Are Buying Counterfeit NFL Jerseys CBS Denver

Kind Of Unbelievable’: Brazen Bike Thief Caught On CameraA downtown Denver retailer has reported a brazen theft by a man posing as a customer.

Denver Deputies Eyed For Leaving Work Early, Getting PaidCBS4 has learned that a group of at least a half dozen Denver sheriff deputies and their supervisor are under investigation for repeatedly leaving work early last year, yet getting paid for time they were not at their posts.

Colorado Venues Enhance Security Following Ariana Grande Concert BombingPolice in Denver have issued a statement saying it is working with concert venues to enhance cheap jerseys security.

DENVER (CBS4) The Broncos are on a tear this season, and consumer interest in official NFL team jerseys is skyrocketing. At a flea market in the Denver area an undercover CBS4 crew recently was able to pay $70 for two of what looked to be official jerseys from a vendor. Then CBS4 was able to bargain a different flea market seller down to $30 on another jersey.

The jerseys had the NFL logo on them, said they were manufactured by Nike, plus they had the hologram and tag that can be found on jerseys for sale at official team stores. They looked sharp.

CBS4 took them to a trained eye Alan Fey, who oversees merchandising for the Broncos team store.

first impression is it does not look real, the colors are different, Fey said. blocking doesn look right. With this one, the coloring is off on the NFL shield.

CBS4 later sent photos of the holograms on the jerseys tags to NFL officials and they confirmed that they were also took the jerseys to John Brennan, who operates licensed NFL apparel seller The Sports Fan on Federal Boulevard.

Consumers make travel plans while DC ponders airline fees

DALLAS As families and individuals start to book summer travel, a debate is rising about whether airlines make it too hard to choose the most affordable options.

Airlines say the Internet has made pricing transparent and air travel is a bargain.

Consumer advocates and lawmakers counter that comparing fees for things like baggage and extra legroom a growing part of the cost of a trip can be difficult, especially when travellers don buy their ticket directly from the airline.

No changes are coming in the short term, leaving travellers to plot their own strategies for finding the best prices. As always, it helps to plan ahead and consider whether you need extra services that might add to your cost.

Some old strategies are losing value due to changes in the way airlines operate.

The notion that Wednesday (or Tuesday) is the best day to buy your ticket isn always true anymore. As more airlines base loyalty programs on how much you spend, not how many miles you fly, it has become harder for cheap jerseys many leisure travellers to earn free flights.

Here are five tips from travel experts:

Know what comes with your seat by reading the fine print on the airline website. A cheap ticket that doesn include checked baggage might not be such a bargain.

Delta Air Lines (and soon American and United) has a lower economy fare. looks cheap, but it got a whole bunch of restrictions on it, says Patrick Surry, the chief data scientist at Hopper, a travel research firm in Cambridge, Mass. impossible to change it, you don get a seat assignment, and you can pay to upgrade. It buyer beware you need to do your homework. Be flexible with dates and destinations. Flying to tourist destinations will almost certainly be cheaper and less crowded in September or even August than in July. That is of little help, however, to families with school age children.

Check the budget airlines. For example, if you flying to Europe this year, Iceland WOW air and Norwegian Air Shuttle have added routes across the Atlantic.

may not be the most convenient or comfortable, but they may offer some attractive savings, says Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst in San Francisco. He cautions that travellers wanting lots of optional services may find it cheaper to stick with the older, more familiar airlines.

If you haven done so yet, follow the Twitter accounts of the airlines on your intended route and sign up for alerts from fare tracking services there are several of those. That way you learn about a flash sale before it ends. She factors in the extra fee for advance seat assignments when flying on the discount airlines that won let you pick a seat for free.

Costs can rise quickly for a family. Want to sit together on a low fare airline? Seat assignments run $2 to $100 each round trip on Spirit and $12 and up on rival Frontier, although Frontier offers a discounted package of extras. ticket costs $200 on American, Delta or United but is free on Southwest.

Fees for certain seats and other items can vary widely or be waived depending on whether you belong to an airline loyalty program and whether you an elite member. Even using the airline branded credit card can make a difference. Your fees might be waived on one airline but not another. Department of Transportation about consumer issues. makes it next to impossible for consumers to comparison shop. There is no single site for anyone to go to. advocates are waiting for a Transportation Department rule that they believe will require airlines to provide information about fees to third parties like online travel agencies, which they say would make comparison shopping easier. But any such rule is not expected to take effect until late 2016 or beyond.

Congress is unlikely to settle the debate. This month, a Senate committee blocked a proposal to require Transportation Department approval of fees, a vote that pleased the airline industry.

Melanie Hinton, a spokeswoman for the trade group, says customers can already choose among airlines and select different combinations of prices and amenities to suit their needs.

Consumers gobble cheap food as grocers squirm

In Austin, Texas, Randalls slashed prices for boneless beef ribs by 40 percent, to $3.99 a pound. Not to be outdone, the H E B grocer down the street charged $1 a pound less. Albertsons recently advertised a deal you don’t normally see on your finer cuts of meat: “buy 1 get 1 free” specials on “USDA Choice Petite Sirloin Steak.”

And what does $1 buy these days? In North Bergen, New Jersey, you could pick up a dozen eggs at Wal Mart. (OK, the price was actually $1.14.) A mile away, check out Aldi, the German supermarket discounter, which can actually break the buck 12 eggs for 99 cents. A year ago cheap jerseys you would have paid, on average, three times that price. It’s the longest streak of food deflation since 1960 with the exception of 2009, when the financial crisis was winding down. Analysts credit low oil and grain prices, as well as cutthroat competition from discounters. Consumers are winning out; grocery chains, not so much. Their margins and, in some cases, their stock prices, are taking a hit.

Eggs and beef have have grown especially inexpensive, and it isn’t only an American phenomenon: In England, Aldi recently offered its prized 8 ouncewagyu steaks from New Zealand for about $6.50 a little more than the price of a pint of beer.

“The severity of what we’re seeing is completely unprecedented,” said Scott Mushkin, an analyst at Wolfe Research who has studied grocery prices around the country for more than ten years. “We’ve never seen deflation this sharp.”

Mushkin, who researches local markets, recently found that prices of a typical basket of grocery items in Houston had fallen almost 5 percent over the past year.

He credits, in part, the discerning behavior of shoppers like Manny Sinclair. On a weekday lunch break, the 43 year old contractor stopped by a Wal Mart in Secaucus, New Jersey, to pick up turtle food and paper towels.

Sinclair typically buys groceries at his local Shop Rite but has recently noticed the steals he now finds at discounters. He glanced at the meat case, where a 12 pack of “Angus steak burgers” fetched $15.82 and grass fed ground beef could change hands for $4.96 a pound.

Sinclair was intrigued but, in the classic logic of a shopper in an age of deflation, figured he might find even lower prices elsewhere. Along with two Wal Marts, a Target and an Aldi, the area even offers a Family Dollar that features a small refrigerated section.

“Wherever I find the good deals that’s where I’m at,” Sinclair said.

At first, falling prices helped grocers. Low cost commodities pushed down the tab for meat and packaged food and boosted profits. Now, deflation has turned ugly for the industry. Led by WalMart, retailers are pushing down prices, eating away at their profit margins.

“It starts to border on irrational pricing,” said Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. It could get worse. stores by 2018. Even Whole Foods Market famously derided as “Whole Paycheck” is trying to compete on price through digital coupons and promotions on items such as beer and produce.

“The other thing that’s always hard is getting your message out, because it’s fascinating in our research, most people are saying their basket of goods costs more money,” McMullen said on a call with analysts this month.

The likely reason for McMullen’s lament: Food, on average, makes up only about 15 percent of a consumer’s budget. Except for gas and other energy related items, prices for most other goods are going up, if only modestly.

Consumers Energy bills are laden with surcharges

Based on a DTE Energy monthly bill, submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, The Oakland Press contacted DTE with the idea of dissecting the statement and obtaining an explanation for those plentiful surcharges.

Total charges for the sample month, in this case December, were $94.10. But of that total, just a little more than 50 percent, $47.84, was for actual electricity use. The balance of the fees were surcharges.

Scott Simons, spokesman for DTE, says this charge offsets the cost of the company’s efforts to harness solar and wind power. He notes the state has mandated that by 2015, 10 percent of the DTE’s capacity come cheap jerseys from renewable energy sources. Currently, Simons says, DTE’s wind farm is providing 14 megawatts of power through the use of seven turbine generators.

While that doesn’t seem like much compared to the total capacity of DTE facilities, which is 11,000 megawatts of electricity at any given time, Simons notes “you have to start somewhere.”

In the only surcharge that consumers would probably like, there was a $4.89 rebate for “power supply cost recovery, regulatory asset recovery and enhanced security.” However, don’t get too excited. All of these basically are a refund of fees previously paid by customers because the costs of recovering or buying the fuel to generate energy were less than anticipated.

Then, there are a number of fees under the category of “delivery charges.”

There’s a $6 service charge fee that covers the cost of meter operation and reading.

DTE charged $24.72 for distribution, which, as the name implies, covers the costs of delivering the power, such as through power lines.

A 75 cent “energy optimization” surcharge is state mandated and covers the cost of energy efficiency programs. Simons says this basically ordered DTE to develop a variety of programs for its customers to become more energy efficient and the state is allowing DTE to recover those costs.

“We’re the energy experts so it makes sense for us to administer those programs,” he says. “To help us administer those programs, we contract with a number of suppliers and firms that offer these services. It is another job generator as well.

“Hopefully, our customers will take advantage of all these programs and save money on their energy bills.” The programs include selling energy efficient light bulbs, which last 10 times as long as the traditional filament ones.

There are four charges under “other delivery surcharges” that total $13.05 on the sample bill.

One is “nuclear decommissioning,” a charge the state has mandated that allows DTE to charge customers for when a nuclear plant is taken out of service. Simons says this money is currently being placed in a fund to be tapped later.

The “choice implementation” surcharge also mandated by the state allows DTE to recover from existing customers the cost of customers who go to other electrical suppliers.

Then there’s “securitzation bond and bond tax” charges, which reimburses DTE for its refinancing of debt from its Fermi II nuclear plant in Newport, near Monroe.

Finally, there’s the “U 15768 implementation” surcharge, which allows DTE to immediately self implement a portion or all of a rate increase request submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission. Simons says the Legislature allows DTE to start billing at the higher rates with understanding that if the rate increase is rejected or reduced by the PSC, customers would get a rebate.

As Simons notes, “All of these charges are reviewed and approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. In 2009, we reduced our costs by more than $100 million because we knew the economy and higher costs for us would have to be offset for us and we did that without layoffs.”

It may not come as a lot of comfort to customers, but realizing what and why these surcharges are being assessed may help explain why your electricity usage may be down from last year because you’re trying to save energy but your total bill is up. One reader reported that his year to year monthly usage dropped 19 percent. But, he saw only a 5 percent drop in the monthly bill.

The “distribution charges” of $27.77 pay for the pipelines, transmission systems and the storage fields that Bishop says “we use to provide you with safe and reliable natural gas service.” He notes Consumers has one of the largest natural gas storage systems in the nation, primarily in the Detroit area, and that helps keep total costs down.

The largest portion of the bill, $110.23, is the “gas cost recovery charge (GCR),” which Bishop says pays for the fuel itself or the cost of the gas. Under state regulations, Consumers doesn’t make any money on cost of the fuel. “What we pay is what we charge our customers,” Bishop says.

Bishop notes that because of the fluctuating price of natural gas, customer bills may rise or fall from year to year, but because of the utility’s large storage facilities, increases are minimized. This year, he notes, because natural gas prices have fallen, customers should get a break.

Both DTE and Consumers are for profit companies and have stockholders they must report to. However, as utilities in Michigan, in addition to facing costly state regulations, they do get special privileges. Both are allowed to have profit margins of 10 to 12 percent a year, and may increase their rates to achieve those numbers. That’s not bad when inflation is only 2 or 3 percent and many companies are struggling to break even.

Also, they are guaranteed a 90 percent share of the market. Competing companies are allowed to take a total of no more than 10 percent of their customers.

To be fair, both utilities do have programs where they try to keep costs down and optimize their operations.

Cheap energy is a thing of the past. But because the utilities have state mandated controls and are supervised by the PSC, they must be more open to the public in their operation.

Customers obviously don’t have to educate themselves about their energy bills and the companies that supply their heat and electricity. But the information is available, should they want to.

Consumers Digest Names 2015 Automotive Best Buys

DEERFIELD, Ill., Nov. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ Thirty seven vehicles and seven companion models received Best Buy ratings from Consumers Digest for the 2015 model year. The ratings, which are published in CD’s December issue (on sale Nov. The Best Buys on performance assessment, safety ratings, ownership costs, warranty, price, comfort, ergonomics and amenities CD’s view of which 2015 vehicles represent exceptional values in each segment.

Top 3 “Subcompacts”: Chevrolet Sonic, Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta Top 3 “Compacts”: Ford Focus, Honda Fit, Mazda3 Top 7 “Family Cars”: Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion/Lincoln MKZ, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima Top 4 “Luxury Cars”: Audi A6, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac ATS Sedan, Hyundai Genesis Sedan Top 5 “Sporty Cars”: Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, Mazda MX 5 Miata, Scion FR S/Subaru BRZTop 3 “Hybrids”: Ford Fusion Hybrid/Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid Top 3 “Minivans”: Chrysler Town Country/Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey Top 3 “Compact SUVs”: Ford Escape, Mazda CX 5, Subaru Forester Top 3 “Midsize SUVs”: Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee Top 5 “Full Size SUVs”: Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX 9 Top 3 “Luxury SUVs”: Acura MDX, Acura RDX, BMW X5 Top 2 “Pickups”: Ford F 150, Ram 1500

“Each of our Best Buy recommendations represents an outstanding value,” says Randy Weber, CD’s publisher. “The research that supports them is thorough, comprehensive and based on extensive hands on, real world test drives. A complete list of standard equipment, features and specifications are included on each trim level of each Best Buy vehicle, cheap jerseys as well as the options that are available, the pricing of those options and any special taxes that apply. There, visitors will see previous Consumers Digest’s Automotive Best Buys. Simply stated, the editors of Consumers Digest believe that exceptional new automobiles make better used vehicles. So, if the timing isn’t right for the purchase of a new vehicle and a used vehicle is the way to go, consumers are encouraged to browse the Auto Archive. They will find and compare expert reviews, standard equipment, specifications, features, options and historical pricing information on thousands of late model vehicles. The Auto Archive’s format also allows consumers to thoroughly compare up to three vehicles side by side. Another valuable option highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each vehicle that you select, which makes it easier to identify purchase priorities. Searches also can be conducted by make or vehicle segment.

consumers could boost auto sales above 17 million

DETROIT Confident in the economy and cheered by cheap gas, Americans are likely to push new car sales to their highest level in a decade this year.

Analysts expect sales to reach 17 million for the first time since 2005. That’s close to the record of 17.3 million set in 2000.

Low gas prices are giving buyers more confidence, whether they’re buying their first subcompact or upgrading to a larger SUV. Gas prices started this year at an average of $2.23 per gallon, down 33 per cent from the beginning of 2014, according to AAA. households $550 this year about four months of lease payments on a 2014 Honda Civic.

Popular new vehicles, like the Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Outback, are also drawing buyers.

Sales have now grown for five consecutive years a rarity in the volatile auto industry.

While sales are growing, the pace has slowed from double digit increases in 2011 and 2012. That’s good news for buyers, who can expect to see bigger discounts in competitive segments like midsize cars as automakers fight to steal sales from each other. economy remains healthy.

December, with its holiday discounts and warmer than usual weather, brought buyers out in droves, with sales up 11 per cent over the previous year. Automakers reported December and full year sales Monday.

For all of 2014, sales were up 6 per cent to 16.5 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. That was the biggest year for the industry since 2006.

Back then as now the Ford F Series was the country’s bestselling vehicle and the midsize Toyota Camry was the bestselling car. The top selling SUV was the Ford Explorer, but it was only No. 14 among all vehicles sold, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. In 2014 two smaller SUVs the Honda CR V and the Ford Escape cracked the top 10 in sales as customers turned away from small and midsize cars as car like handling and low gas prices made such vehicles more appealing.

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors all reported 2014 sales increases, and Nissan, Subaru, Hyundai and Honda reported record numbers for the year. Among major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell. in 2014 despite a scandal over the delayed recall of faulty ignition switches in older small cars. GM sold just over 2.9 million vehicles, up 5 per cent from 2013.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Among major automakers, Subaru was the biggest gainer, with sales up 21 per cent to 513,693 vehicles in 2014. Subaru’s three new utilities the Crosstrek, Forester and Outback drove sales. FiatChrysler was the year’s other big cheap jerseys gainer, with sales up 16 per cent to 2 million, thanks to strong demand for its Jeep and Ram brands. showrooms. Mini also struggled as gas prices fell, with sales down nearly 20 per cent.

SUV BOOM: Gas prices accelerated the switch from cars to SUVs. That’s partly because automakers are offering more types of SUVs, including fuel efficient subcompacts such as the Buick Encore, to appeal to young families and Baby Boomers. The trend is likely to continue in 2015 as more small SUVs, like the Honda HR V, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX 3, hit the market.

LUXURY GROWTH: As the stock market rose, so did sales of expensive vehicles. sales in 2014. Lexus luxury sales outpaced mass market sales last year, and they’re expected to do so again this year. Luxury makers are offering more models, like the new Maserati Ghibli sedan and Lincoln MKC SUV, and they’re expanding their customer base with lower priced models like the Mercedes GLK Class and Jaguar XE due out this year. for 2014. for 38 years, saw sales drop in 2014 as the company temporarily halted production to prepare for its new aluminum sided F 150. The new truck arrived at dealerships in December, but inventory won’t be at normal levels until the middle of 2015. In the meantime, rivals are offering big deals to lure customers away. Ram truck sales rose 24 per cent in 2014, while Silverado sales gained 10 per cent.