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Friday
Jan302015

Super Bowl Commercials: McDonald's Lets You Pay for Food with Lovin'

McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's new Super Bowl ad shows that "lovin'" pays, and it's a different kind of payment than what buys you a 30-second $4.5 million spot.

"We want to thank our customers for making our day and hopefully they will make someone else’s as well -- that’s what Lovin’ is all about," a spokeswoman for McDonald's said.

Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 14, customers who order items during pre-selected times will get to "Pay with Lovin'." In other words, a McDonald's employee will let you know if you've been chosen to get your order for free.

"From selfies, hugs to high fives -- we have a bunch of fun ways to express your Lovin'," McDonald's says.

Last Sunday, McDonald's released a 30-second teaser for its newest ad that stated, "This February, McDonald’s will be randomly accepting a new form of payment."

What has been touted as one of the greatest Super Bowl ads of all time is McDonald's 1993 ad that featured basketball legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing a game of H-O-R-S-E for a Big Mac.

McDonald's expressed a different kind of lovin' Wednesday when it announced that its CEO of nearly three years Don Thompson was stepping down. The new CEO is Steve Easterbrook, who previously oversaw McDonald's in the U.K. then northern Europe.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Worker Satisfaction Tied to Middle Managers' Relationship with Supervisors

Moodboard/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — If employers want to improve worker satisfaction, they’re advised not to cut out the middleman.

More specifically, a Vanderbilt University study contends that a real trickle-down theory likely exists at most workplaces in that a supervisor’s relationship with the middle manager directly affects lower-level employees.

Study author Ray Friedman, with colleagues from other schools, examined the dynamic of 1,500 full-time workers at 94 U.S. hotels and discovered that “middle managers’ satisfaction with their senior managers was related positively to line employees’ satisfaction with middle managers.”

Conversely, if a supervisor has a poor relationship with a middle manager, the people on the rung below are often likely to be disgruntled.

Expanding the trickle-down theory even further, other studies have shown that businesses with a high rate of turnover will have lower customer satisfaction.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Why We May Have Kenny G to Thank for the Starbucks Frappuccino

Starbucks(NEW YORK) -- Does the world have Kenny G to thank for the Starbucks Frappuccino blended drink? Maybe.

The Grammy award-winning musician recently spoke to Bloomberg about how he met Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and became one of Starbucks’ early investors.

“My uncle -- my dad’s brother -- was, I think, the very first guy that gave Howard Schultz money to get Starbucks growing,” Kenny G told Bloomberg. “And my uncle called me and said, ‘I know you’ve been selling some CDs. Meet this guy Howard Schultz. Give him some money for his company Starbucks.’”

As Kenny G -- and the rest of the world -- later found out, investing in Starbucks did not disappoint.

The saxophonist, whose latest album Brazilian Nights was released on Tuesday, also named the Frappuccino his Starbucks drink of choice and took partial credit for its addition to the menu.

“At the beginning, Starbucks didn’t have anything but coffee, and there was another company, Coffee Bean, that had…something called blended,” Kenny G said. “And I would always call Howard and say, ‘Howard, there’s this thing that they do there that’s like a milkshake or whatever.’ And so I think that part of the reason that they did Frappuccinos was people like me giving them that kind of feedback. So I’d like to think that I’m partially responsible for that.”

"Kenny has been a dear friend of Starbucks since the beginning of the company and we are very appreciative of everyone, including Kenny, who've been a part of the success of Frappuccino," a Starbucks spokesperson told ABC News.

While Kenny G may have spoken to Schultz about adding an iced blended drink, two Starbucks partners first began developing the idea in 1993 when they saw an opportunity for the cold beverages in Southern California, the Starbucks spokesperson said. By spring of 1995, the first Frappuccino blended beverages, Coffee and Mocha, were available nationally.

In addition to the Frappuccino, Kenny G also said he had a role in Starbucks selling music, since his Christmas album, Miracles, was the first record that Starbucks sold in 1994.

"That was the experiment to see if they could sell music at the counter, and it worked really well," said Kenny G.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Facebook: How to Opt Out of Place Tips

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook is launching a new place tips feature that will serve up tips about where you are using cellular networks, Wi-Fi and GPS, but there's a way to opt out.

Place tips brings up relevant tips about a user's location, similar to what someone may find on Foursquare and Yelp.

"When you tap on place tips, you’ll see a series of cards with info about the place you’re at," Facebook product manager Mike LeBeau wrote in a blog post. "If you choose to view place tips, you’ll find things like posts and photos your friends have shared with you about that place."

The feature won't show a user's friends where they are and will not post anything to Facebook. If you already share your location with Facebook but don't want place tips, check to make sure it's turned off in your mobile app.

Choose settings, location and "Place Tip Settings" to toggle the service on or off. You can also turn off tips for places you visit regularly by tapping the menu at the top of the tip to hide them.

Facebook said it's testing the service in New York City. Several businesses in the city will use Bluetooth beacons, which send signals to a person's phone when they're nearby. Facebook said this will help them make sure users are getting "the right tips for the right place."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

How McDonald's New British CEO May Transform the Burger Chain

McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- Get ready, America: McDonald's new CEO is British and he's bringing his fast food turnaround experience from across the pond.

You're not likely to see McDonald's change French fries to "chips" stateside, but you may see a stronger emphasis on healthier, more fresh foods -- a direction in which McDonald's and other food brands are already heading.

Steve Easterbrook, an accountant by training, became chief executive of McDonald’s U.K. in 2006, when the brand was struggling with the public's perception of unhealthy food and low-wage jobs. In the year that he was promoted as head of McDonald's in northern Europe in 2008, sales rose 10 percent at the 1,200 U.K. McDonald’s.

The 48-year-old now has the task of boosting McDonald's amid sagging sales in the U.S., as reported by its quarterly earnings announcement last Friday.

Here are some things that you can find at U.K. McDonald's that you may see more of in the U.S.:

1. Free Fruit Fridays

At McDonald's in the U.K., kids now get a free McDonald’s "Apple and Grape Fruit Bag" when you buy a Happy Meal on the first Friday of every month.

Since the program launched in March 2014, McDonald's says it gave away the equivalent of 173,000 whole pineapples, when that fruit was part of the giveaway. By the end of this March, McDonald's says it will have given away the equivalent of 2.6 million apples and 17.6 million grapes, according to its U.K. website.

In the U.S., for the last few years, McDonald's has offered as Happy Meal side options apples, previously with caramel dipping sauce that can be found in some locations like Canada, and "Go-gurt" yogurt. Last month, McDonald's said it is offering "Cuties" California clementines until March in Happy Meals.

2. More Nutritional Labels?

Among the changes that Easterbrook oversaw at McDonald's in the U.K. were nutritional labels on table mats, according to the Financial Times.

3. More "Football"

An entire section of the McDonald's website, one out of 10 categories in the U.K. site, is devoted to "football" (or, "soccer" for people in the U.S.). In that section, McDonald's emphasizes awards and corporate sponsorship of youth playing and teams.

Besides devotion to soccer, one of the biggest global differences is how the British often refer to McDonald’s: “MacDonald’s,” “Maccies,” and “Maccy D’s” are common nicknames for the Golden Arches over there. Similarly, French customers refer to the company as “McDo” while Australians often call it “Macca’s.”

4. Composting

Another change that McDonald's in the U.K. implemented under Easterbrook was composting at some locations, the Financial Times reported.

Some McDonald's locations have recycling and composting programs, such as in California, but the company website emphasizes the former rather than the latter.

5. Food Sourcing

Under Easterbrook, McDonald's introduced organic British milk and coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance, the Financial Times reported.

All of the eggs across the entire British menu are free-range and have been for 10 years, McDonald's U.K. website states.

McDonald's corporate website states that it hopes to begin purchasing verified sustainable beef in 2016 worldwide.

With different meat sourcing standards in the U.K., McDonald's website states that it uses only 100 percent British and Irish beef burger patties and 100 percent British pork.

The British McDonald's has used sustainably-sourced fish since 2001 and carry the Marine Sewardship Council (MSC) eco-label. In 2013, McDonald's in the U.S. said it would carry the MSC eco-label.

6. Delicious "British" Desserts

Want a Smarties or Cadbury's Crunchie McFlurry? Or an ice cream cone with Cadbury "99 Flake" chocolate? That's only available if you're at a McDonald's in the U.K.

Other items found in British locations: "Toffee and Honeycomb" McFlurry, "Chocolatey Donut" and "Mixed Berry and Custard Pie." While you're at it, wash it all down with a McDonald's Toffee Latte.

7. Fish Fingers

In addition to the classic Filet-O-Fish, McDonald's U.K. offers fish fingers, described as three "lightly-breaded fingers of tender filleted Hoki."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Starbucks, Match.com Team Up to Help Couples Connect over Coffee

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Starbucks and Match.com are teaming up for the online dating site’s first-ever branded product feature in conjunction with what they hope to be "the world’s largest Starbucks date" on Feb. 13.

Match has already rolled out the product feature, called “Meet at Starbucks,” which enables users to invite others for a cup of coffee at Starbucks and find the best mutual location with the click of a button.

“This has always been sort of the dream partnership for me and Match, because Starbucks is ubiquitous in people’s lives. Dating is something pretty much every person does at some point in their life, and so is Starbucks,” Match CEO Sam Yagan told ABC News.

Yagan himself has been personally involved in the deal, he said, because of his love for Starbucks.

“I go to Starbucks literally twice day I think -- I might be one of their best customers -- and I often overhear a Match date happening and I’ll go introduce myself sometimes,” he said.

It also makes business sense, though, with 30 percent of Match users listing “coffee & conversation” as an interest, making it the third-most popular interest on the site.

“By far the most first [Match] dates happen at Starbucks than anywhere else,” Yagan said, based on information culled from Match messages and survey data. “What we’re doing here is enabling something that’s already happening. People are already on Match and already going to Starbucks on first dates. About 10,000 people a day go on first dates from Match. ... We’re trying to celebrate that, bring those success stories to the forefront and make it even easier in our product to meet up at Starbucks.”

Yagan envisions the “Meet at Starbucks” product feature as taking the pressure off asking someone out.

“A lot of times people feel a little apprehensive about suggesting to actually meet in person. One of the reasons that can be hard is people think they have to propose something super novel,” he explained. “But what’s even better than novel is something safe, comfortable, easy, ubiquitous, aspirational, right environment, all those things. Now they can just hit the button and pick the one you want to go to.”

On Starbucks’ end, the brand thought of the partnership as a way to celebrate what it already encourages: connection.

“For us at our core, coffee is really about that chance to inspire, nurture, encourage moments of connection when people get together face-to-face over a cup of coffee and really be able to chat, share and enjoy. This has always been central to our core,” Starbucks global chief marketing officer Sharon Rothstein told ABC News. “We sought out natural partners, and the interesting thing is when you hear about Match, all they’ve done over the years is encouraged connection and getting people together. And then you take it obviously to Valentine’s Day which is just around the corner.”

The day before what is marketed as the most romantic day of the year, Starbucks will be hosting what it is calling “The World’s Largest Starbucks Date” to introduce and promote the partnership.

On Friday, Feb. 13, participating stores in the U.S. and Canada will feature a special pairings menu designed for two for $5. From 2 p.m. to close, dates (or anyone) can choose from a Caffé Verona Coffee Press for two and a double chocolate chunk brownie, tall flat white and chocolate croissant or grande raspberry mocha or grande white chocolate mocha and heart cookie.

The stores will also be playing special in-store music playlists and offering photo props to encourage people to share a photo of their date online at the hashtag #StarbucksDate.

“Our hope out of the partnership is really first and foremost that as people think about their busy days, that we encourage them to take time out and do something to stop and have a moment. Truth be told, we care more about embracing that chance to come together than we do about the numbers,” Rothstein said. “We are obviously engaged in all sorts of connections, whether it’s you and an employee, you and your grandmother, you and your children or you on a date.”

The hashtag has already been used hundreds of times naturally by people dating at Starbucks, and the brand has countless success stories of people meeting and finding love at the stores.

“Between the weddings and 'where I mets,' these are just really great talk points for us as we launch the conversation about this,” Rothstein said. “In the fall, one of the stories we did on social [media] was how did we meet, and we got lots and lots of customers to give us back their moments of connection there and tell us that story. This is the dialogue we want to continue to embrace with Match, and frankly make that part of our core in a more ongoing part of our conversation with people.”


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Three Red Flags to Remember When Picking a Tax Preparer

Oleksiy Mark/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When Oscar Lomeli asked his friends for a recommendation on a tax preparer, he didn’t think he’d end up getting stuck paying back his bogus refund.

“They [friends] told me she was good,” said the engineer from Costa Mesa, California. ”She [the preparer] totally lied and now it’s my fault that she wrote the wrong information and now I have to pay the consequences for that.”

With nearly 60 percent of Americans using tax professionals to prepare their returns, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a warning to be on the lookout for con artists making the rounds.

Lomeli said during tax time, the tax preparer came to his house and then left with all of his papers. Two weeks later, he learned he’d receive a $3,000 refund. Lomeli said the woman came to his house to pay him.

“She paid me my refund in $20 bills,” he said.

Lomeli said he later learned that the tax preparer had made up thousands of dollars in deductions. His refund totaled $4,500. Lomeli said she kept $1,500.

“It [the filing] stated that I had a business, which I do not, and it said I lost money in my business, therefore my refund was bigger,” he said.

The IRS said Lomeli’s situation was an all-too-common problem.

“Legitimate preparers should be charging you a fee tied to the amount of work it’s going to take to prepare your return and file it,” said John Koskinen, an IRS commissioner. “That fee should be independent to any refund to which you’re entitled.”

Koskinen shared these three tax preparer red flags:

  1. A preparer who bases fees on the size of the refund.
  2. A preparer who asks you to sign blank or incomplete tax returns.
  3. A preparer who can’t provide a PTIN (preparer tax identification number)

There’s also these additional tips:

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.

Make less than $60,000? You can file your federal tax returns for free through IRS Free File. TurboTax is also letting those taxpayers file state returns for free and H&R Block is charging $9.99 through Feb. 15.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan302015

Lyft to Launch in Philadelphia Despite Ban

Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft(PHILADELPHIA) -- Despite warnings from Philadelphia officials, ride-sharing app Lyft will go live in the City of Brotherly Love on Friday evening.

The app is set to go live at 6 p.m., the company said in a blog post, even though the Philadelphia Parking Authority has made clear that ride-share services in the city are banned. Drivers operating under a ride-share service are warned that they may face $1,000 fines and impoundment of cars.

Still, Lyft plans on beginning to serve Philadelphia on Friday anyway. The company's Chief Marketing Officer, Kira Wampler, told ABC News that part of the reason they will ignore the warning is "because we've had thousands and thousands of consumers tell us, very loudly and clearly, that they want Lyft in their market."

Lyft was granted temporary authority to operate in most of Pennsylvania in December, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. That authority, however, does not include Philadelphia.

Wampler believes that once city officials see Lyft in action, they will be swayed. "It's not about competing in the for-hire taxi or limo space," she said. "It's about unlocking every car, every seat, every driver...as we get to that it means fewer cars on the road, it means getting there faster." Simply put, Wampler concludes, "as these cities grow, they can't add highways and parking lots at the same rate they're adding people."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan292015

Crude Oil Prices Rally as Wall Street Bounces Back with Gains

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street bounced back from consecutive days of losses to post solid gains on Thursday, while crude oil prices rebounded slightly one day after hitting a five-year low.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 225.48 to 17,416.85.

The Nasdaq finished the day at 4,683.41, up 45.42, while the S&P 500 rose 19.09 to 2,021.25.

During Thursday trading, the Wall Street Journal says, crude oil fell to $43.58 per barrel, the lowest point since March 2009. A rally saw the price of oil end the session at $44.53 per barrel.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan292015

Qantas Will Use Samsung Virtual Reality Headsets to Entertain Flyers

Qantas(SYDNEY) -- For frequent flyers with deep pockets who would rather be anywhere than on a plane, Qantas has you covered.

The Australian carrier said on Thursday it will begin offering Samsung Gear VR headsets to first-class passengers on select flights, providing an immersive virtual reality experience.

Beginning in March, first-class passengers with cabin fever on long-haul flights from Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles can strap on a headset and escape to another world.

The virtual reality experience will allow passengers to watch movies and even tour other Qantas destinations.

Visitors to the Qantas lounges in Sydney and Melbourne will also be able to get the virtual reality experience.

For flyers who don't want to pay thousands of dollars for a first-class fare but want the virtual reality experience, there is of course a cheaper solution -- buy your own.

The Samsung Gear VR retails for $199.99 and is powered by a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which costs $299.99 with a two-year contract.


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