24 Stories We Covered In 2015 That We Never Saw Coming

Image courtesy of Bill Lewis

The following is a true story: One day, two Consumerist staffers were chatting about the work day. One said, “I can’t believe I’m writing about the legal ramifications of butt-dialing.” The other replied, “We should probably remember this conversation for a year-end story about things we didn’t expect to ever write in 2015.” A calendar alert was made, and our future selves were duly reminded.

From the aforementioned rear-end action to the news that U.S. citizens would be traveling to Cuba as tourists, we gathered some of the stories we covered this year that frankly, our past selves could never have predicted happening in the near future, if ever.

1. The Time Warner/Comcast merger actually failed: Sure, we thought it could possibly get the kibosh from federal government, but in 2014, it still seemed likely it had a fighting chance. In fact, 50% of our readers predicted in 2014 that the two companies would tie the knot and ride off into the sunset. It was not to be.

2. After all that, Comcast’s Executive Vice President managed to keep his job — and then some: After the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger failed miserably, we wouldn’t have been shocked to write that the public face of the deal, Comcast Exec VP David Cohen, was moving on to another job. But not only did Cohen keep his job, he got a boost to his annual bonus. We’re in the wrong business.

3. Costco and American Express tell everyone they’re breaking up: It’s over for the former long-term steadies come 2016. In February, the chain announced that its exclusive deal with AmEx would be going kaput, opening the door to other forms of credit card payment.

4. In which we all learn a lesson about the intersection of butts, technology, and the law: Yes, Virginia, there can be legal repercussions when your rump calls someone it shouldn’t be calling. A federal court ruled in July that if you accidentally dial someone using any part of your anatomy, don’t expect anything you say during the call you don’t know you’re making to stay private.

5. That time McDonald’s got to report a boost in sales for once: The desperation of the Golden Arches finally paid off (cough, *all-day breakfast*, cough). The chain announced in October that it had finally managed to see in an improvement in its U.S. stores for the first time in two years. We are genuinely surprised.

6. Americans heading to Cuba — for fun: After more than 50 years of being kept out of Cuba, U.S. tourists can finally visit the island to the south, whether by cruise ship, ferry, or airplane.

7. The largest collapse in U.S. higher education finally occurred: It took almost a year, but in 2015 we saw the end of for-profit education chain Corinthian Colleges Inc., with the closure of its 13 remaining Everest and WyoTech campuses in California, Everest College Phoenix and Everest Online Tempe in Arizona, the Everest Institute in New York, as well as 10 locations of Heald College in California, one in Hawaii and one in Oregon.

8. We pondered whether a non-human primate has the right to its own photography: We’ve been covering the monkey selfie story since 2014, but the mystery of “Who owns the right to this self-portrait of a grinning macaque?” reached its peak in September when PETA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the monkey, claiming that not only should it be granted the copyright, but that it deserves royalty payments.

9. We get hoverboards (sort of) at last, and they immediately set themselves on fire: We got one step closer to a Jetsons reality, except these hoverboards don’t actually hover. And they’re also hard to ride when they’re aflame.

10. Marijuana, marijuana, everywhere: It’s not just those hippies out there in California with prescriptions for wacky tobaccy anymore. In 2015, the topic of legal pot became rather ordinary. Mary Jane made her way into dispensaries and stores, conversations, ballots and the country’s common conscious. Heck, even my grandmother is fine talking about the stuff now.

11. There are no limits to what companies will try to pull to keep customers from speaking ill of them: After years of covering inane “non-disparagement” clauses that seek (often illegally) to prevent customers from writing honest-but-negative online reviews, we hit the bottom of the barrel, ethically speaking, with this contract from an Orlando wedding contractor.

12. Learning there is such a thing as fromagicide: A crime against cheese that has an official name? No one could’ve predicted that, because no one should be considering hurting cheese. And yet in August, the Russian government destroyed literal tons of premium cheese.

13. A TV pitchman going to trial after refusing to admit he kicked an owl while paragliding: We really thought there might be a story about a TV pitchman refusing to admit he punched an eagle while hang-gliding, but this one really blew us out of the water.

14. Someone can go to jail for “nut rage” on an airplane: And not just anyone — a top airline executive who’d become enraged in 2014 for improperly served macadamia nuts. The former vice president at Korean Air was convicted in February of violating aviation safety law and received a one-year prison sentence.

15. A major telecommunications company would rather tell fans to switch cable companies than give customers the channel they want: It’s not news that Time Warner Cable hates its customers, and that the company specifically hates L.A. Dodgers fans, many of whom couldn’t see their favorite team because of the minimal available access to TWC-owned SportsNet L.A. Then, in March the company rubbed dirt in the wound by telling angry customers that if they wanted access to the cable channel, they should just switch to a provider that offers it… without mentioning that no other provider in the area had SportsNet at the time. That sort of customer disservice takes (base)balls.

16. Verizon bought the smoldering remains of AOL: It’s not often you hear about a shotgun wedding between two tech companies, but that’s what happened for Verizon and AOL, with a $4.4 billion acquisition in June. This, only a month after the bride and groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom) announced the proposed merger.

17. Sears is still in business: We know, we’re just as shocked as you are that this company is still kicking around. Heck, it even reported its first profit since 2012! Though it wasn’t because it actually sold a lot of stuff or finally convinced customers to return en masse.

18. You don’t have to be hot to work at Abercrombie & Fitch anymore: Put away that self tanner and step away from that exercise machine — normal, uncool kids are now acceptable employees at A&F, as of April.

19. No more on-demand porn in your hotel room: Times, they are a’changin — Hyatt gave over-priced blue movies the boot. Now what are you going to lie to the front desk about on your bill?

20. Someone in the world sued over not achieving a footgasm: Woman sees commercial with women who are very pleased with their stockings, wants what they’re having. When her feet don’t achieve the same level of ah, comfort, as she hoped, she sued.

21. Major companies turn their logos rainbow in honor of a landmark ruling: Many of America’s biggest names came out to show support for same-sex marriage, which was then deemed a constitutional right by SCOTUS.

22. T-Mobile makes us ask a very important question — what about Andorra?: The wireless carrier claims $0.20 per minute coverage in “all” of Europe… but one country is left out. Did we ever think we’d be asking about Andorra? No, we did not.

23. Dating in the 20th century involves comparison to livestock: In which we wonder if we just heard the guy in the FarmersOnly.com ad correctly.

24. The death and subsequent rebirth of SkyMall: As long as we can remember flying, there’s always been SkyMall, welcoming us with ridiculous, yet wholly necessary, things like inflatable movie screens and jumping hot dogs. So when the company filed for bankruptcy in January, at first we were all like, “RIP SkyMall, how could this happen?!?” And then by December, it was more like, “Hey, welcome back, SkyMall.”

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