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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Entertainment - All posts in category Entertainment

  • Jan 11, 2012
    1:18 PM ET

    CES: A Conversation With the TV

    Kelli B. Grant

    Ask, “What’s on tonight?” and the TV may soon be able to provide an answer — without even putting down a bowl of chips and reaching for a single button on the remote.

    Voice command technology has popped up repeatedly at CES — manufacturers including Lenovo and Samsung plan to include it in some of their latest models, and startups are lobbying for their own licensing deals. Among them is Vlingo, a virtual assistant for the TV capable of processing requests like finding movies currently playing that feature action movies with Angelina Jolie or romantic comedies with Jennifer Aniston, and setting an upcoming Simpsons episode to DVR.

  • Jan 11, 2012
    10:24 AM ET

    CES: Instant Video Editing for Dummies (And Busy People)

    Kelli B. Grant

    Camcorder sales have taken a nose-dive since the advent of the smartphone and its built-in video-recording capability, but so far, experts say, few people have unleashed their inner director to do anything with those clips.

    “People take video but don’t share it because it’s 20 minutes of their son learning to ride a bike. No one wants to watch that,” says a spokesman for new site But a pieced together clip of 30 seconds to a minute? Much more manageable. Free editing tools on Magisto’s site and iPhone app allow users to edit videos with just a few clicks — pick available clips from a phone or computer, select a background song from your library and add a title. Within a minute or two, the site has cut together the clips into a short movie.

  • Jan 10, 2012
    3:43 PM ET

    CES: A Lighter, Cheaper Segway

    Kelli B. Grant

    Remember the Segway? Back in 2001, analysts hailed the two-wheeled electric vehicle as the next big thing in personal transportation. But at 100 pounds and a price tag of more than $5,000, it didn’t roll with most lifestyles.

    Inventist is taking another stab at the category, with the new Solowheel. Here’s how this 21st Century unicycle works: Users zip along on the battery-powered device’s single wheel with their feet on pedals to either side. (OK, “zip” is relative. It goes 10mph, max.)

  • Jan 6, 2012
    8:15 AM ET

    How to Marry a Millionaire

    Vicky Oliver

    Vicky Oliver, author of The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire, Even if You’re Not, says it’s possible to live like a millionaire on a budget. Or – at the very least – look like one. Oliver also gives seminars on job-hunting, image presentation, and business etiquette. She lives in Manhattan. But how do millionaires look and act? Lesson One: Start chasing tornadoes and throwing boomerangs.

    Pay Dirt: What made you come up with the title?

    Oliver: I thought its’ a really good book for our times. We’ve been suffering from a recession that hasn’t gone away. We all want the “lux” lifestyle. Things are tighter now and it’s harder to enjoy it. The book also has style and hair tips.

    Hair tips? How can women manage expensive highlights on a budget?

    I don’t get highlights. But whether you buy a box of L’Oreal dye or go to a professional it breaks the hair. If you straighten it, it gets broken a second time. I suggest learning to live with the natural color that God gave you. Sometimes going darker makes you look younger.

    More men are dyeing their hair these days, too.

    Some men want to look younger in the workplace, too. Even male hairdressers are less used to knowing what to do with a man’s hair. If the color is wrong, it can make men look much older. Men should keep their temples grey for a more natural, blended look.

    You don’t give your age.

    No, I don’t.

    You know what Oscar Wilde said about a woman who will tell you her age?

    No, what?

    He said a woman who will tell you her age will tell you anything.

    Oh, dear.

  • Dec 23, 2011
    8:00 AM ET

    Shopping with a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills

    Lia Chang/ Lord & Taylor

    She may be one of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” but reality TV star Adrienne Maloof is a bargain hunter at heart. She buys the store brands at Ralph’s and Target and shops with her debit card. Now, the co-owner of the Maloof group of companies, which includes the Sacramento Kings basketball team and Palms Spring Casino in Las Vegas, has designed her own line of not-quite-so affordable shoes for Charles Jourdan.

    Pay Dirt spoke to Maloof at the launch in Lord & Taylor in New York.

    How hands-on were you with the design?

    When I was a child I played with Barbies, I always pulled the shoes out first and designed the outfit around the shoes. My whole life I wanted to design shoes.

    So did you sketch out ideas that you liked?

    Yes, I designed according to certain shoes I personally liked. I wanted these shoes for the everyday woman.

    What do you think your name brings to the brand? People know you primarily through your television show?

    I think they also know me for being part of a family business that’s been around for 150 years. My father had always taught us, ‘Don’t do something unless you do it right.’

    When many people think of Beverly Hills they think of tiaras and Chihuahuas. On the television show, you appear to be the peacekeeper.

    Somebody has to be the peacekeeper because at the end of the day you have to live and work with your family. Growing up in a family business you have to make it work. Being surrounded by all brothers, I had to figure it out.

  • Oct 25, 2011
    10:31 AM ET

    Netflix Loses: Who Wins?

    Netflix’s recent stumbles may help boost  Amazon and other streaming video competitors, but there’s still no clear choice for consumers weighing the various video-on-demand services, experts say.

    Wall Street was expecting Netflix to reveal that it lost some subscribers in the third quarter, thanks to a price hike, followed by that embarrassing Qwikster episode. But the problem was bigger than analysts expected: 810,000 people canceled their Netflix subscriptions in the quarter.

    So far, the company’s wounds have been self-inflicted, says Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst with Frost & Sullivan. But the online streaming landscape has gotten a lot more competitive in the past couple of years, and there’s one competitor in particular who’s well-positioned to welcome Netflix refugees, Rayburn says.

  • Oct 24, 2011
    10:21 AM ET

    Bon Jovi’s Priceless Restaurant Could Go Platinum


    Jon Bon Jovi’s new pay-what-you-can community restaurant, Soul Kitchen, could also end up taking in more cash than you might expect. In fact, when consumers are allowed to choose their own price, they often end up paying more, experts say.

    Pay-what-you-can models work a lot better than classic economic theory suggests they should, says Ayelet Gneezy, an assistant professor of marketing at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, who has studied the concept. “Almost all pay-what-you-want experiments that I’ve heard of, people pay even when they don’t have to, which is amazing,” Gneezy says. Traditional economic theory holds that people are “selfish, rational agents” who seek to maximize their own best interests — yet people tend not to take advantage of what to calculating eyes would look like an opportunity to get something for nothing. “That suggests people really care about fairness, they want to do the right thing,” she says.

    When the money’s going to charity, as it is at the Soul Kitchen, people tend to pay more. Gneezy and colleagues ran an experiment at an amusement park where people could pay anything they wanted for a souvenir photo of themselves riding a roller-coaster. When they were told half of the money was going to charity, fewer people bought the photo, but they paid more than six times as much for it. Basically, when people know the money’s for charity, they don’t want to look like cheapskates, so they either skip it entirely or they give generously, Gneezy says.

    Anything that disrupts that feel-good atmosphere, however, reduces the amount people feel like they want to pay. In another experiment, Gneezy found that people paid more at a pay-what-you-want restaurant when they put the money in a donation box than they did when the owner took the money directly. Putting the money in a box anonymously seems to feel more like a gift or a show of appreciation, whereas having someone observe the payment makes it feel more like a business transaction, she says. Suggested prices can also make an exchange feel more businesslike, making people less generous, she says.

  • Oct 4, 2011
    6:00 AM ET

    Why Positive Yelp Reviews Do More Than Nasty Ones

    You – yes, you – have the power. Food lovers may have good cause to pay attention to public reviews on even when they are positive, according to new research. The power of the “troll,” those anonymous reviewers who leave nasty reviews, may be waning.

    Nice-as-pie reviewers on Yelp may be more reliable than you think, according to a new study conducted by Harvard Business School. They are actually more likely to leave thoughtful, positive reviews on Yelp, says Michael Luca, author of “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of” Luca combined reviews from Yelp and restaurant data from the Washington State Department of Revenue: A one-star increase on Yelp’s five-star review system can boost restaurant sales by 5%-9%, Luca says. He says Yelp has successfully created a social network where people are encouraged to identify themselves and post descriptive reviews rather than vent. “You can get some fake reviewers,” he says, “but at least you can say, ‘This other guy thought this particular dish was good.’”

  • Sep 2, 2011
    1:07 PM ET

    New Netflix Pricing: Fewer Movies, Slower Streaming


    Netflix’s new, higher prices kicked in for current subscribers yesterday — the same day that content partner Starz announced it would end its streaming partnership with the movie rental site and weeks after AT&T said it would slow data speeds for heavy users who do a lot of downloading and streaming.

    Translation: for an extra fee of up to $72 per year under the new pricing system, subscribers may get less content, and contend with slower speeds should they decide to watch those movies on their smartphone.

    Starz announced Thursday that it had ended contract renewal negotiations with Netflix, and would stop streaming its content — which includes Disney and Sony movies — when the current contract ends at the end of February. Sure, there’s still plenty of time for negotiations to pick back up, but All Things D says that doesn’t seem likely. Netflix’s response seems pretty final, and notes that the site is “grateful for the early notice of their decision, which will give us time to license other content.” By Netflix’s estimates, just 8% of what subscribers stream comes from Starz.

  • Jul 22, 2011
    12:15 PM ET

    The Best Baseball Teams for Ticket Bargains


    Derek Jeter reaching the 3,000-hits milestone hasn’t been enough to entice fans out to the ballpark this season. Baseball ticket prices on the secondary market have dropped 6% on average since the start of the season, and Yankees tickets in particular have dropped nearly 50%.

    Attendance often falls off if a favored team hasn’t done as well as expected or doesn’t have any exciting matches coming up, and as we report today, fans are also facing higher box office prices than in previous years. “There’s a lot of competition for that entertainment buck right now and baseball really bears the brunt of it,” says Jon Greenberg, executive editor of Team Marketing Report. With that slump in demand, ticket prices on secondary sites have gotten cheaper. (See the list below for teams with the cheapest seats for the rest of the season, and the most expensive.) Growing e-ticketing options have fueled the trend by allowing fans to wait until the very last minute — just hours before the game starts — to buy. Buyers are motivated to wait, and sellers, to drop prices at the last minute to unload seats.

About Pay Dirt

  • 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 or tweet @SMPayDirt.