It seemed like such a good plan. For their small businesses, several of our readers use postage printers from DYMO. The software that goes with these printers comes in two versions: free and $10 per month. The free version requires users to round their postage up slightly; the paid version does not. Then the company dropped a new rule on customers: if they want to use the free version of the software, they have to buy their labels from DYMO. If they want to keep using cheaper third-party labels, they have to pay $10/month for the service. [More]
There’s no such thing as “pure chocolate,” says a European Union high court, and the phrase cannot appear on the front of candy packages. [More]
After the Center for Science in the Public Interest complained last month that “all natural” doesn’t include things like alkalized cocoa and hydrogenated oil, Ben & Jerry’s announced yesterday that it will stop using the phrase on its ice cream cartons. [More]
Name brands exert a strong power over shoppers: 17% of us think name brand foods are more nutritious, even though there’s little nutritional difference between the two categories. Consumer Report performed taste tests on several food categories to determine whether name brands tasted better than store brands, and found that in some cases the store brands actually won. [More]
Brett tried on a pair of “Made in Italy” Ray-Bans at a Sunglass Hut and liked them, but they were the display model so he had to come back to pick up his own a few days later. When he did, he discovered that the real pair he bought said “Made in China,” and in his opinion they felt lower quality. [More]
There’s a burgeoning artisanal market in the U.S., where goods made by hand or in small batches–and marketed with lots of footnotes and descriptions of quality–are growing increasingly more popular. But why, and is it just a hipster lifestyle ingredient or an actual shift in the larger population? [More]
If you want to buy environmentally friendly products when you’re out shopping, you’ll find plenty of options these days. The trouble is that “green,” like “organic,” is considered a very loose concept by lots of manufacturers. The Chicago Tribune put together a list of ways you can spot the fakes on your next shopping trip. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: the words eco, earth, green, friendly, gentle and kind are all frequently used to give the impression of being environmentally friendly, but they’re essentially meaningless marketing words. [More]
If record labels decided to pull some of their songs from the Zune Pass service in the past couple of weeks, they did a poor job telling Microsoft about it. The company seems to be as in the dark as Zune Pass subscribers about why songs, albums, or entire discographies have gone missing. Ars technica reports that a Microsoft employee wrote on a Zune forum, “We are investigating your reported missing albums indicated in this post—and will come back to you as soon as we understand why they’re missing.” [More]
The numbers are in for liquor sales in 2009, and last year had the smallest increase in sales since 2001, reports Bloomberg. What’s worse (if you own a high-end liquor company), sales shifted toward the products on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and people bought less at restaurants and other public places. But we’re not actually drinking less, it turns out–we’re just doing more entertaining at home. [More]
You’ve probably seen Google Finance, where each company has its own page made up of content scraped from all over the web. Google is about to launch a similar service for musicians, says the Hollywood Reporter: “The music pages will package images of musicians and bands, album artwork, links to news, lyrics and song previews, along with a way to buy songs.”
I swan! [Fans face.] Sweet magnolia breeze! I do declare! [Clutches petticoat in pre-swoon anticipation.] Alabama is in a dither over a drawing of a nude nymph on a wine bottle label, so they’ve banned the product from being sold. Their liquor regulations forbid the display of “a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner” on any alcohol packaging. We have to side with Alabama on this one—after all, we’re not sure you can ride a bike naked without eventually doing something immoral, whether you mean to or not.
Proposed federal rules will mandate more comprehensive labeling on tires. The new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration label will rate tires’ fuel efficiency/gas greenhouse rating, tread ware, as well as the traction they get on wet roads.
Although eMusic is a great service—for a flat monthly fee, you get a set number of downloads per month of DRM-free music tracks—it’s about to get better. Or maybe worse, depending on the breadth of your musical tastes. Today eMusic will announce that Sony is adding its back catalog of songs to eMusic’s library. The bad news is that eMusic also plans to slightly raise prices and/or drop the number of downloads per month. Even if it works out to between 50-60 cents per track, though, that’s still far less than iTunes Music Store or Amazon, and probably the cheapest way to grab music from Sony artists without resorting to piracy.
Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, says marketers are trying too hard to find a working model of why people spend money the way they do. It really comes down to the human equivalent of “cost signaling” in the animal world—a sort of “peacock feather” display that’s supposed to tell peers and prospective mates how smart or sophisticated we are. The only problem is, other people never fall for it.
MP3newswire.net browsed through not-quite-hits from past decades on the iTunes Music Store to see where these fabled 69 cent music tracks are hiding. He tried the Katydids, Camper Van Beethoven, the Lyres, Rock and Roll Trio, but found nothing below 99 cents. Then he went back to be-bop and blues recordings of the ’40s—nope. Finally, he looked at songs from Ada Jones, a recording artist from 1893 to 1922. Everything was still 99 cents.
Say what you will about Apple’s dominion over the music industry, but for a while now they’ve maintained an artificially low market for music tracks by forcing labels to sell songs for 99 cents each. That era is over: in exchange for moving to a higher bitrate and going 100% DRM free (hooray) iTunes has officially introduced “variable pricing” (boo), which means each track may cost 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29—it all depends on the song and the label. It looks like Amazon has introduced variable pricing as well, although it’s mostly holding to the 99 cents threshold for now. Amazon’s tracks, by the way, have always been free of DRM.
A CBS investigation has uncovered some Walmart and Macy’s coats being sold at Burlington Coat Factor — disguised as more expensive designer brands. Apparently, some jackass at a coat supplier thought it would be a good idea to glue Perry Ellis labels on cheap coats. As you can imagine, both Burlington Coat Factory and the customers with the fake merchandise are not pleased.