Forget Super Bowl Sunday. For a number of businesses, the real profits may be in a completely different sort of showdown: Call it Presidential Debate Wednesday.
With President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney set to square off on Wednesday night in the first of three nationally televised debates, considerable attention is going to the potential political drama, particularly given this event’s focus on hot-button domestic issues. And naturally, the struggling American economy is expected to top the list.
On Wednesday, Pay Dirt responded to a report in The Wall Street Journal about the growing number of Americans who are ditching their paid TV subscriptions in favor of streaming and other less-expensive options — a practice known as “cutting the cord.” We offered a checklist of things to consider before making the switch, and asked our Twitter followers if they would cut their cable cord.
How much would you pay to see the midnight show of “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20? Scalpers are betting quite a lot.
Asking prices for opening night tickets on Craigslist hit the $100-per-ticket mark in New York. On eBay, a Los Angeles seller wants $125 apiece, and another in Council Bluffs, Iowa is asking $140. And if you really want to be among the first to see it, there’s an eBay listing for two tickets to a 7 p.m. showing on July 19 in Los Angeles. The price: $300.
Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of the Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant samples gourmet treats and fancy kitchen gadgets at the Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C.
Consumers without a wine cellar may be able to fake it, thanks to a new device that chills bottles from the inside.
Les Misérables 2.0: the American consumer.
That’s the theme of of Dean Bakopoulos’ second novel, “My American Unhappiness.” The book follows the personal and financial struggles of Zeke Pappas, a 33-year-old scholar who interviews Americans about why they are discontented for his pet project, the “Inventory of American Unhappiness.” Bakopoulos started writing this book in 2007 – just before the recession hit. “Like many people, Zeke was living pay-check-to-pay -check and was willfully ignorant about what was coming.”
Bakopoulos, 36, a professor of creative writing at Grinnell College in Iowa, had his literary debut with “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon” about the men of a small, depressed Michigan town who take off for the moon, leaving the women and children behind. And he has just finished a new yet-to-be-published book called “Evolve.” That too is another bleak commentary on American consumerism. The plot? Class warfare breaks out over an addictive new energy drink.
In the spirit of Zeke’s “Inventory of American Unhappiness,” Pay Dirt asked Bakopoulos why he believes Americans need cheering up.
Friendships are increasingly breaking up among Facebook’s 800 million members.
The percentage of people who “unfriend” other Facebook members rose from 56% in 2009 to 63% in 2011, according to a new Pew Research study. Women seem to be second-guessing their online relationships the most: some 67% say they deleted people versus 58% of men. Likewise, young adults are more active “unfrienders” when compared with older users: 71% of those between 18 and 29 deleted people versus 63% of those aged 30 to 49. (A Facebook spokeswoman says it introduced privacy measures in recent months so users could restrict rather than unfriend others.) Language expert Alan M. Perlman says it’s more than just friends who over-stay their welcome due to excessive self-revelation or bland status updates like, “I just ate breakfast” or, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Coupon-clipping seems like a wholesome pastime. But the latest season of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” resulted in allegations of fraud and reignited a feud between J’aime Kirlew and Jill Cataldo — two of the country’s biggest coupon-clipping moms.
The Coupon Information Corporation, a non-profit industry watchdog, expressed its “continued disappointment” with “Extreme Couponing” over a recent episode allegedly showing a 16-year-old in Burbank, Ca. using fake coupons to get 408 rolls of toilet paper for free. With the cameras rolling, the store went along with the transaction and the boy wheeled seven carts of toilet paper out of the store. However, after conducting an investigation, the CIC says the store denied payment for the counterfeit coupons and contacted the show, but the minor’s mother repaid them for the pilfered paper. The CIC wants the show to retain an independent industry expert “to insure the integrity of future episodes” and follow the rules pertaining to couponing. (Dustin Smith, a spokesman for TLC, declined to comment on the issue.)
Consumers who never learned to play a musical instrument — well, or at all — can now fake it.
The new Beamz interactive music system plays the melody line of songs in its library, letting the user add in complementary beats, vocals and instrumental riffs by moving his or her hands through its laser beams.
A spokeswoman says the $199 device is meant to appeal to “the Guitar Hero” set, as well as wannabe deejays (although mixing your own tunes requires additional equipment). “You can’t really sound bad on this,” she says. The USB-powered device comes with software and 50 songs; others in the 200-plus song library cost $0.99 to $1.99 each.
Watching movies on the comparably tiny screen of a smartphone doesn’t hold appeal for plenty of consumers, but soon, it may be the equivalent to a universal remote for much of their video content.
Coming soon: A new app called Shodogg will let users use their smartphones to find their movies or TV show of choice, then send streamable content from their phone to any web-connected device, including computers and televisions. A spokesman says it won’t require any special equipment, and can be used with any product brand — so long as the phone in question is a smartphone and the various devices can connect to the Internet. The smartphone then effectively functions as a control, pulling content from those devices or pushing it to them, and letting users pause and fast-forward from the phone screen.
“I was trying to create something I would like to wear,” says 50 Cent of his new “Street by 50″ and “Sync by 50″ headphones from SMS Audio.
The professionally tuned sets — $300 for the wired Street, and $400 for the wireless Sync — offer studio-quality sound that he says helps listeners experience music the same way he does while creating it in the studio. (Check out our video clip for more on his vision and the headphones’ design.)
Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @SMPayDirt.