When you sign up for services — some combination of TV, broadband, and/or phone — from your cable company, you’re told you’ll pay something like $49 or $89 a month… and yet the price you actually pay can be 30-40% or more on top of that, thanks to a heap of sometimes confusing charges and fees. Which ones do you blame the government for, and which are made up by your cable company? One cable company at a time, we’re going to use real customers’ bills to break it down. First up: Comcast. [More]
Manufacturers — of all kinds — usually try hard to get it right on the first try. From banana muffins to bicycle helmets, it’s in a company’s best interests to make their products perfect. Not only is it better for their reputation and their business, but it’s less expensive, in the long run, and causes less trouble. Sometimes, though, something just goes wrong. [More]
Having trouble keeping track of all the different players and abbreviations and names in the latest foreclosure fraud mess? ProPublica offers a handy primer. [More]
Pictures of McDonald’s burgers that have been sitting around for years with no visible sign of decay, like the 7-year old one at left, have shocked and delighted the internets, but what’s the science behind the madness? Is it because McDonald’s is a lab experiment that we collectively hallucinate as being actual food? Salon asked the experts to find out. [More]
“This call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” Yes, but can I get a copy of it? Not unless you made one yourself. [More]
A man was pulled over last week in Western New York and found to have a live kitty marinating in his trunk. It was sitting in crushed red peppers and chili and salt and he said he intended to cook and eat because it had become “possessive, greedy, and wasteful.” Apparently the guy is new to cat ownership, as this pretty much describes every cat I have (lovingly) owned. Anywhoo, as the recession grows desperate, you yourself may find yourself wondering about the legality of frying up a fluffy four-legged friend. Slate probed case law state by state to find out. [More]
Have you ever wondered what that numbered zebra stripe on the box of every purchase really means? Yes, your fears are true. It does contain secret messages the manufacturer is trying to communicate to the bar code scanner. But we have a secret decoder ring you can use to figure them out using your brain powers. [More]
The secret of the $23 quadrillion VISA debit errors looks like a specific and not uncommon programming error. Take the insanely large number, if you convert 2314885530818450000 to hexadecimal, you end up with 20 20 20 20 20 20 12 50. In programming, hex20 is a space. Where a binary zero should have been, there were spaces instead. What made this instance special is that it wasn’t caught in time. A Slashdot commenter identifying himself as working in the industry explains more about what very likely happened:
It doesn’t involve ninjas, but the “shadow” banking system is an important part of the US economy, it’s the companies that loan money but aren’t themselves banks. The loans they make aren’t kept on the companies books, they’re securitized and resold as bonds. White whiteboard and magic marker, Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch argues this shadow banking system deserves it own bailout.
So the latest solution to the problem of these toxic assets on the banks’ books is a “public-private partnership” between the government and the private sector…yawn what is he going on about, I wish I had a pancake…oh wait! Here’s Paddy Hirsch from marketplace drawing stick figures on a whiteboard and explaining it all. Now we’re talking.
There’s been a big stink about how AIG has given a bunch of taxpayer money to other banks. Why why why, demand the American people. Well, it’s not like they enjoy shoveling money out the door, wait, scratch that, but anyway, the real reason is because of something called “collateral calls.” Marketplace’s Paddy Hirsch explains the situation with the help of his friends Mr. Magic Marker and Mrs. White Board in this video.
If you’re new to hunting for deals online, you’ll start seeing all these funky acronyms used as shorthand. Here’s some of the most common ones and what they mean:
This a freakin’ awesome cartoon that explains how the credit crisis began, played out, and exploded in our face. I know you’ve seen and heard a million of these by now, but this one is highly visually engaging and entertaining, enough so I could see it being used in the classroom and kids not getting (too) bored. Graphic designer Jonathan Jarvis. Especially good is how it explains leverage.
David’s effective APR on his Bank of America credit card is now 91.29%. It’s not a typo or a scam, it’s math.
One buzzphrase going around about the financial crisis is “mark to market.” Some think banks are being overly punished by being forced to “mark to market” the investments they own, or price them according to current market value. As you can probably figure out, those assets have plummeted. Marketplace’s Paddy Hirsch explains with his trusty whiteboard and stick figures what “mark to market” means, and what it means for the economy.
Bankruptcy is not a get out of jail free card for your debts, it’s a nuclear weapon. If you use it, expect to be considered credit unworthy for a decade.