argos aliens 300x200 Argos launches trade in service for unwanted gadgetsArgos, in a partnership with WRAP, have introduced a new service at all its 788 UK stores, which allows you to exchange your unwanted gadgets.

As you’ll be able to do this in stores, rather than post them off, this could be just the ticket for a lot of people who would like to get rid of some old tech. Part of this new service sees you getting an instant quote and payment over the Argos counter.

Customers can trade it in and get an Argos gift card to spend on something else that they’re invariably end up wanting to scrap, but still, you can lose your unwanted tat and then spend the money on over 50,000 Argos products. These items will be refurbed and resold.

Amy Whidburn, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Argos, said: “As a leading technology retailer we know that our customers are looking for solutions to responsibly dispose of unwanted gadgets when they replace or trade-up devices. Our new scheme in conjunction with WRAP offers them a safe way to do this, in a really convenient location on their local high street or retail park, with the added benefit of receiving a gift card in return immediately.”

“Depending on the response from customers, we may extend the scheme to include other electrical items in the future, such as camera, sat-navs or laptops.”

Marcus Gover, Director of WRAP, said: “We’re delighted to see this type of service become available over Argos store counters. Our research told us consumers have an appetite for trading in and Argos is now providing a convenient and easy way for them to do just that and release the value from their unwanted gadgets. By doing so we’re keeping valuable resources out of landfill and in use longer, reducing the impact on diminishing virgin materials and protecting our environment.”

Mr. Happy Everything is rosy with household financesIt’s rare that economists aren’t gloomy, but it seems everyone is feeling more positive about their finances. The latest Nielsen consumer confidence survey shows that UK confidence has overtaken the global average for the first time in more than nine years- last time we were this happy financially, Tony Blair was telling us things could only get better for the third time and the official interest rate was nine times higher at 4.5%

British consumers are also more confident than those in Germany for the first time in five years and we’re now second only to Denmark in confidence ratings throughout Europe. We’ve also stopped shopping around so much, with the switching of grocery brands to save money now at its lowest level since late 2009.

A different study by Lloyds Bank, of more than 2,000 people aged between 18 and 75,  also reported an increase in consumers’ confidence. Its survey on spending power found that 70% of empty-nesters- people aged 45 or more whose children had left home- described their financial situation as good, compared with 61% of parents aged 25 and over with younger children and falling to 58% cent of young singles aged between 18 and 24 with no children.

And the Lloyds Bank Spending Power report suggests that confidence is rising with people’s confidence in their personal financial situation increasing by 5 percentage points. And the outlook is rosy-  31% of young single people aged between 18 to 24 said they expected to be able to save slightly more in six months times than they do at present, although this figure falls to 11% for those aged 45 or over, who already think they’re in a good position financially.

Patrick Foley of Lloyds Bank said: “Consumers remain in good spirits, with sentiment buoyed by a combination of strengthening wage growth and muted price pressures,” meaning that lower prices and stagnantly low interest rates, combined with wage increases mean we all feel richer.

And Asda have quantified just how much richer we are. Last week, Asda’s latest Income Tracker report revealed that UK households have an average of £189 of discretionary income to spend each week, which is £18 more than this time last year, a figure that has been consistent for the last quarter. So what are you spending your extra £18 on?

Barristers strike over cuts to legal aid

July 27th, 2015 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

 Barristers strike over cuts to legal aidWe told you recently about the government shutting down 91 ‘surplus’ courts, and it looks like there’s more legal bother afoot, as barristers are going on strike in a protest against cuts to legal aid.

Criminal barristers are going to start refusing to take on Crown Court cases, as they show solidarity with criminal defence solicitors, who are looking at cuts in their fees of 8.75%. Solicitors have already been striking since the start of July, refusing all new work in Magistrates and Crown Courts.

These cuts will make it harder for small high street law firms to stay in business, which of course, creates the kind of scenario that gives advantage to people with more money.

Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Court Solicitors Association, said: “Hundreds of solicitors’ firms around the country will close down, developing instead into mass justice warehouses, legal aid warehouses, where cases will be packed high and sold cheap.”

“High street firms that ordinary people know how to access will be decimated.”

The past two governments have been taking money from the legal aid system, which sees lawyers paid from public money, so that people who can’t afford representation can get the help they need.

So, while criminal defence barristers aren’t actually affected by these cuts, they’re showing solidarity with the legal profession, with the majority going on strike. Joanne Cecil, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said that criminal justice is “on its knees and broken” thanks to the measures brought in by the government: “this is really not about our fees, it’s about the wider impact on society.”

“The impact of these cuts to legal aid is not just to defendants, but also victims of crime and witnesses, who have to deal with what is a creaking justice system.”

Tesco to ban Ribena and more from stores

July 27th, 2015 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ribena Tesco to ban Ribena and more from storesTesco are going to remove added-sugar drinks from their shelves, which means no Ribena for you. Or Capri-Sun. Or Rubicon. And some other drinks that taste nice.

And why are they doing this? Well, in their bid to ’help prevent childhood obesity’, they don’t trust you adults to buy what you want from a shop. No, they’re going to have to remove things from the shelves so you irresponsible arseholes don’t destroy your children’s lives.

Of course, you might be really responsible and only give children these things once in a blue moon as a treat or, indeed, you might be an adult that doesn’t know any kids and likes drinking Ribena and Rubicon together in the same glass when you’ve got a hangover.

Tesco don’t care. They’re your new dad, now. And from 7th September, these products will be no more, just in time for the kids starting a new year of school.

Naturally, you’ll be able to go to the newsagents nearby and buy whatever you want without having Tesco dictate their values on you. And indeed, you can imagine they’ll still be selling cans of Coca-Cola and the like, so you wonder what on Earth they’re thinking.

And will other supermarkets follow suit? You can bet that they absolutely won’t and will try and exploit this idiotic decision by Tesco by having some lovely deals and offers on sugary drinks. Shall we assume that Tesco are going to get rid of all things that are bad for families, like cigarettes, wine and cake?

We’ll see.

Are Amazon spying on you?

July 27th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

peeping tom spy Are Amazon spying on you?Are you the kind of person who likes to review things on Amazon? Well, you might not want to after a rather serious allegation has been made against the online vendor. They’ve been accused of spying on reviewers’ social media profiles.

The kicker is this: a blogger from New York called Imy Santiago, wrote a book review on Amazon, and it was censored on a number of occasions, saying that she’d violated the rules of the site. Imy questioned Amazon’s decision and found that she had been blocked from reviewing the book in question, because they thought she knew the person who wrote it.

Amazon said: “We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.”

“Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers… we encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature.”

The problem was, that Santiago doesn’t know the author at all. So, how did Amazon jump to this conclusion? Well, it has been suggested that Amazon are snooping around reviewers’ social media profiles, looking for connections between those leaving reviews and authors.

On her blog, Imy wrote: ”The Big Brother mentality Amazon is employing is appalling, and crosses an ethical line of unfathomable proportions.”

“What quantifiable and verifiable ways is Amazon using to determine if I know the author of a book, or not? The fact that they refuse to elaborate as to how I ‘know the author personally’ is highly concerning.”

She added: “I applaud Amazon for trying to curb unethical positive/negative reviews from being posted. What I don’t find congruent is them monitoring social media activity as basis to determine associations, because as an indie writer I use social media to network and promote my books, like thousands before me. I never consented to that in their terms and conditions. If Amazon is data mining, we deserve to know, and I stand my ground in saying I do not know this author on a personal level as Amazon claims.”

Who wants to watch people fighting in a Tesco?

July 27th, 2015 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Shopping in Tesco can be a frustrating experience at the best of times, but have you ever descended into a full on brawl, going wild in the aisles?

Well, that’s what happened in a branch in London, and handily for you, someone thought “WORLDSTAR!” and filmed the whole thing, even going as far as to do certain bits of it in super slo-mo, for that truly cinematic experience.

The video shows three men and a little lady weighing in on each other, and other people are on-hand to try and stop the absolute nonsense, including a security guard who shouts at them like he’s had enough, and not paid enough.

The Metropolitan Police did confirm that they were called to the Woolwich branch of the Tesco Extra some time around 1.25am on Saturday.

Everyone involved was spoken to, but no arrests were made. Presumably, the police have more pressing concerns and bigger fights to deal with at that time of the weekend.

A Tesco spokesman said: “Our colleagues called the police as soon as they were aware of the incident. They are now working with the police to help with their investigations.”

Every little yelps.

Data corruption on latest MacBook Pro

July 24th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

sad apple logo Data corruption on latest MacBook ProApple have sent out a warning to everyone that the latest MacBook Pro has an issue which might cause data corruption. There might be a separate issue with screen damage as well.

Regarding the data corruption, Apple have put out a firmware update to fix the laptop’s flash storage component. It is the 15″ mid-range 2015 Retina model that has shown signs of corruption.

This follows a lot of complaints about MacBooks that have knackered screens. Marks, or ‘stains’ are appearing on the laptops in such volumes that someone bothered to set up a website dedicated to the problem. It is called staingate.org, and shows a number of botched screens.

Just shy of 3,000 people (and counting) have joined a Facebook group about this issue too.

Obviously, one of the big concerns is that they’re going to be rinsed with expensive service fees that they’ll have to fork out for once the warranties or protection plans expire.

Considering that the MacBooks are considerably more expensive than the rest of the market, you can see why people have the hump.

Apple haven’t confirmed whether there’s an issue or not (there clearly is) and it seems to be models from 2013 that are causing the most grief for people.

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?

July 24th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

christmas 300x300 Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?You might be thinking it is the middle of summer, and Christmas can go jump under a bus, but some people are already going mad for the festive period.

Apparently, over 1 million Brits have completely finished their Christmas shopping, according to some research. That’s 1,377,000 people, who have patted themselves on the back, that Christmas – bar the food – is taken care of.

Honestly. And Bitterwallet hasn’t even got anything in for its tea yet.

This survey was undertaken by the shopping mad people at channel QVC. They’ve also predicted that a gigantic £29 billion will be spent in total this Yuletide, which is up by £4.5 billion on the £24.5 billion forked out last year.

That’s an average spend of £650 each, including food and booze. And the biggest Christmas spenders are in the North East, which Wales is the Scrooge of the scenario.

Irritatingly, QVC will be making eyes at the organised, and they’re starting their special Christmas broadcasts from today. So if you’re after a dead-eyed doll that soils itself, some diamonique earrings or a scarf you can wear in 46 different ways as well as being a drain unblocker, you’re in luck.

To the rest of you – you’ve got over 150 days to get sorted. Don’t worry yourself.

Apple won’t sell Google’s Nest

July 24th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

nest 300x270 Apple wont sell Googles NestGoogle and Apple don’t like each other. They both want to rule the world, but sadly, this Earth isn’t big enough for the both of them. And they’re probably going to squabble about that new Earth that NASA have found, too.

Anyway, onto smaller things and it looks like Apple have pulled the plug on Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat from its physical and online stores.

The people at Nest have said that they consider Apple to be a valuable partner for their company, and they intend to sell their wares through Apple’s channels, even though Apple have taken all the product pages down.

This isn’t the first time Apple have walked away from the Nest – they removed both physical and online listings of the device from their stores earlier in July. However, this time, it looks like they’re doing it for good.

Even though Apple were one of the early adopters of Nest and were willing to promote it, they’re now trying to do their own thing, obviously. They created their own smarthome stuff, with the arrival of HomeKit. Of course, within that range, there’s ecobee3, which is the smart thermostat which is compatible with HomeKit.

Of course, Google showed off Brillo, which is their own version of the HomeKit platform.

Former Apple executives Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers are the co-founders of Nest, with Fadell being dubbed ‘the godfather of the iPod’, but it seems that tech companies just can’t play nicely together, despite what their penchant for twee adverts and ukulele music might suggest.

Mothercare’s shares drop, again

July 24th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Mothercare Mothercares shares drop, againMothercare has been in-and-out of Deathwatch on countless occasions, proving that they’re either beleaguered as a business, or we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Anyway, looks like things still aren’t great at the pram-vendors. Internationally, Mothercare have been doing okay, with only their UK-arm letting the team down. However, the chain’s international business has suffered a fall in sales, which has seen their shares drop.

Mark Newton-Jones, the chief executive, has been trying to turn the company around, but now, it looks like he can’t rely on international sales, which has been propping up the UK division for years. In the Middle East, they’ve stopped shopping at Mothercare, and the weakness of the euro, on top of sanctions in Russia, have hampered sales.

Shares were down by nearly 6% last night, and Newton-Jones said: “Trading across our international business has been more volatile, as we have previously highlighted, with increased macro headwinds impacting consumer confidence in a number of our markets.”

Curse those macro headwinds! They really make a mess of your hair!

Poorly performing stores are being shut down across the UK, after last year, Mothercare said they’d close a quarter of all shops. The company have a plan, which is to move away from the high street and look toward bigger retail parks. Of course, shoppers have shown that they don’t like big retail parks anymore, with supermarkets trying to get away from them, so what Mothercare are doing is not clear to us.

It isn’t wholly bad news for the business – online, their sales have gone up 23.9%, which is encouraging.

Newton-Jones added: “Our strategy in the UK is continuing to deliver results. We have delayed the end-of-season sale to take advantage of well-controlled stock and the warm weather to sell more at full price. As a result, margins are improving without adversely affecting like-for-like sales. Online has also benefited from lower discounts and promotions with the additional benefit of improved functionality.”

monopoly houses 300x225 Rent is on the up, and Buy To Let isnt helpingUnsurprisingly, rent is going up and up, with a third of letting agents seeing rents increase between May and June, which is the biggest climber of 2015. Of course, this is going to continue, as 80% of agents surveyed have said that private rents are set to rocket in the next 5 years.

Why? Everyone is pointing fingers at the Budget, as the impact of it trickles through to the buy-to-let market.

George Osborne has made a number of promises to get tough with the tax relief enjoyed by buy-to-let landlords, however, letting agents say that tenants are going to inevitably pick up the slack. So, while private landlords can claim tax relief on monthly interest payments at up to the 45% top level of tax, as of April 2017, this will be at a basic rate of 20%.

Not only that, but from April 2016, the ‘wear and tear allowance’ will be axed too. Basically, there’s a number of things that landlords will want to claw back, and of course, the simplest way they can do that is by putting up people’s rent.

The Chancellor thinks that the changes being brought in will ’level the playing field for homebuyers and investors’, but not a lot of people agree with that.

“Findings like this continue to prove that the housing crisis isn’t going to disappear anytime soon and it will take a while before we see steps heading in the right direction,” said David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, which compiled a report on all this.

‘The impact of the Chancellor’s reductions to the amount of tax relief buy-to-let investors can claim – announced in the Budget this month – will affect the cost of renting over the coming months and is likely to mean it will take even longer to see any improvement in affordability in the private rented sector.”

With private rents growing faster than the price of houses in June, and the average rent at an all-time high of £789 last month, something needs to be done, and quickly.

Scammers have ‘Suckers Lists’

July 24th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

scam Scammers have Suckers ListsAn anti-fraud team has found losses of £13m among 200,000 or so people, all who have their names on some things that has been dubbed the ‘suckers lists’.

The National Trading Standards Scams Team (NTSST) have been cracking down on these ne’er-do-wells for the past three years, and  have discovered lists of would-be victims who were being targeted because they’ve previously engaged with marketing mailings.

A lot of these people were vulnerable, so were likely to live alone or be elderly, according to the the NTSST.

These particular scams included fake prize draws and special deals, with the average victim losing out on £1,100, or more. So, keep an eye on nana next time you see her.

Lord Toby Harris, chair of NTSST, said: “To have saved consumers more than £5m in three years is a great achievement and shows the powerful effect the National Trading Standards Scams Team is having. However, we know our work is not done. Criminal scammers are targeting some of the most vulnerable people in society – ripping them off in many cases for thousands of pounds.”

“We are going to continue in our fight to protect consumers and we urge you to help us by reporting suspected cases of postal fraud to the Royal Mail.”

That’s right – the Royal Mail are in on this too. The NTSST have teamed-up with the postal service and have 2,000 staff trained-up, in a bid to spot bogus marketing and other scams. However, such is the volume of these scams, We The People need to help them out as well.

Louise Baxter, who leads the NTSST, added: “We really need the public to help us with this – by being vigilant about mass marketing scams themselves but also looking out for relatives or neighbours, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. We often find victims who have lost hundreds of thousands over several years; the impact on individuals and consumers is devastating.”

labrokes betting Ladbrokes merge with Coral to form giganto bookiesLadbrokes have joined forces with Gala Coral in a £2.3bn merger, which makes them the biggest bookies in Britain.

Ladbrokes have been dragging behind William Hill over the years, especially when it comes to online sports-betting. So, they’re hoping that, by tag-teaming with Gala’s digital arm, they’ll be able to get on board with all that lovely money that can be made from prizing the coins out of people’s pockets while they’re messing about on the internet.

Gala’s bingo business is not part of this deal.

“This is a major strategic step for Ladbrokes which firmly accelerates our strategy to improve the customers’ experience and build recreational scale,” said Ladbrokes chairman Peter Erskine. “Ladbrokes and Coral are two highly complementary businesses, with rich heritage and brand presence across the UK and internationally.”

Are you ready to have your experience improved while someone builds recreational scale around your ears? You were born ready, don’t even pretend you weren’t.

Of course, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are going to be paying close attention to this whole thing, meddling at every turn – but that’s the price you pay when you leapfrog every one of your competitors like this.

“Both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral are confident that the merger is deliverable and are committed to working closely with the CMA in its review,” the companies said. They added that ”it is anticipated that the combined entity will need to dispose of retail stores to satisfy potential CMA requirements”.

They’ve got over 4,000 shops to play with, so if your town has a Coral AND a Ladbrokes, expect one of them to vanish soon.

n2bl 300x237 More food fraud  and this one you’ll never spotWho could forget the horsemeat scandal that saw so many of us being unwitting consumers of horses, and not to mention the subsequent Which!!! Investigation that found a worrying number (40%) of lamb curries were actually not lamb at all. Ok in that instance they were mostly beef or chicken, but there was a principle at steak stake. Now, the lovely investigators at Which!!! Have found another food that seems to be commonly not actually what it sayd on the outside- and its something you’d never be able to tell by yourself, and have quite possibly been consuming the substitute for years. The kitchen culprit? Oregano.

An “exclusive cutting-edge food fraud study” for Which!!! found that 25% of 78 samples of dried oregano contained ingredients other than oregano. Fortunately these other ingredients weren’t Chinese tea, or toenails or anything else actually harmful, but in most cases were olive and myrtle leaves,  but they were found to make up between 30% and 70% of the product. So in some cases, less than a third of your oregano jar is actually proper oregano. And don’t think this is just dodgy spice pack bought from Spices R Us online- the investigation used oregano samples bought from a range of shops in the UK and Ireland and from online retailers.

But how could they tell what was oregano and what was other milled leaves? The simple answer is you can’t, or at least you can’t, Which!!! could by using impressive-sounding mass spectrometry which identifies compounds by their atomic composition. The analysis was conducted by Professor Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, who was the author of the independent review into food crime commissioned by the government in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Professor Elliott said: “Clearly we have identified a major problem and it may well reflect issues with other herbs and spices that enter the British Isles through complex supply chains. Much better controls are needed to protect the consumer from purchasing heavily contaminated products.”

Which!!! are, of course, adding this to their ‘Food Fraud’ dossier, and will be passing these latest results to the Food Standards Agency. Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd, said: ‘It’s impossible for any shopper to tell, without the help of scientists, what herbs they’re actually buying. Retailers, producers and enforcement officers must step up checks to stamp out food fraud.’

 

mcdonalds logo McDonalds   bring the all day breakfast to the UKGrease-vendors, McDonald’s, might be rolling out all-day breakfasts this year, over in That America. They’ve been playing with the idea and testing it out in a couple of their chains, but now, it looks like it could go statewide in October.

According to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve seen memos which has been sent to all their American staff, and warned them to be ready.

Of course, with McDonald’s not doing nearly as well as they used to, it seems that they’ve finally started cottoning on to the fact that people want certain things from them (such as all-day breakfasts and McRibs all the time) and they should probably give it to them.

Basic commerce really.

Earnings have been down across the world for six successive quarters, and they ended up sacking their CEO, Don Thompson as a result. We hope they threw his body into the machine that makes nuggets.

So with that, we’d like to see this rolled-out to the UK please. We think it is ridiculous that you can get a Fillet O’ Fish any time of day, when no-one wants them, but you can’t buy a Sausage and Egg McMuffin after some arbitrary time of day. We like the sausage patties because they do what a McDonald’s foodstuff should do – trickle grease down your top and give you two day’s worth of salt intake, per mouthful.

Maccies! Make it happen! Don’t make us set up an internet petition!

Can egg McMuffins and orange juice buoy the food giant back to growth? It had better, since other efforts have not done the trick: McDonald’s franchisees, in a recent survey, said the turnaround isn’t working, leading one analyst to give the company the worst six-month outlook he had seen in 21 years. Thus, new CEO Steve Easterbrook is placing high hopes on the power of breakfast—for lunch and dinner.