<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usFri, 27 May 2016 00:08:36 -0500Fri, 27 May 2016 00:08:36 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[How to Amend a Tax Return]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 09:49:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/irs-building1.jpg

You are experiencing sweet satisfaction knowing that your taxes were filed on time. That is, until you realize that you took a deduction when you did not qualify for it, or forgot to claim an important tax credit that could save you hundreds of dollars.

There is no need to panic — simply amend your tax return in a timely matter using IRS Form 1040X. This form is used to make corrections in income, deductions or credits, number of exemptions, filing status, or health care coverage (insurance) status per the Affordable Care Act. It can also be used to capture issues from up to three years prior, such as claiming a retroactive refundable credit. Other situations, such as receiving a corrected Form 1095-A from the Health Insurance Marketplace, may need to be captured on a Form 1040X depending on the effect it has on your tax return (in other words, whether or not the change disqualified you from taking a tax credit that you claimed on your initial return).

Form 1040X should not be used for items such as math errors or missing forms. The IRS will correct math errors and send you a request if any missing form is needed to process your return. 1040X also does not apply to requesting refunds of penalties or interest, or adding to taxes that you have already paid. In that case, Form 843, "Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement," applies. If you are unsure about when to use 1040X, look over the instructions for details.

The form is quite simple. It contains a column for original amounts, a column for amended amounts, check boxes to verify status, and a section for you to write in an explanation of the changes.

Aren't you just asking for an audit if you file an amended claim? Folklore says that you are, but reality -- and the IRS -- says otherwise. The IRS uses a complex computer formula known as the Discriminate Inventory Function that compares your items to the returns of similar taxpayers to look for large-scale outliers. Even then, an IRS agent reviews the return before deciding whether an audit is in order.

The fact that you amended a report does not increase your chances of an audit at all. However, the content of your amendment can increase the chances. For example, if you amend your return to show a massive change in income without a reasonable explanation as to why, you are more likely to be audited.

When making your correction, consider the following IRS tips:

 

  • Only file Form 1040X after you have filed your initial return, and only file a 1040X for an amended refund amount after you have received the refund. Multiple returns in the system at the same time can create confusion.
  • Form 1040X must be filed using a paper return, even if your initial return was e-filed. Make sure that you look over the instructions to find the correct mailing address for your area.
  • Since you have three years from the date of your original filing to apply a Form 1040X, it is important to note on the form which year's taxes are being corrected. Otherwise, the IRS may apply the corrections to the wrong year. Review the instructions for exceptions to the three-year limit and how that limit is defined (typically from the filing deadline or the actual filing date, whichever is later).

 

Remember that amending your federal taxes could have ramifications on your state taxes. Check your state tax laws for the potential effects.

The IRS typically processes a 1040X in eight to twelve weeks, but it could take up to 16 weeks in some cases. You can track the progress using the "Where's My Amended Return" application on the IRS website. Have your Taxpayer ID number (social security number for most filers), your zip code, andf your date of birth ready for verification purposes.

Do not let fear of the IRS stop you from correcting your return. Correct your return at the earliest opportunity — and if you need professional help in doing so, do not be afraid to ask. It is better to correct a problem now than to put it off hoping the IRS does not notice the issue. How likely is that to happen? If your amendment means paying the IRS more, it’s better to give them some now than owe a whole lot more in penalties and interest later.

This article was provided by our partners at moneytips.com.
Taxpayer Bill Of Rights
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<![CDATA[Sports Authority to Close All of Its Stores]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 10:32:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sports-GettyImages-513328004.jpg

Sports Authority is getting ready to close all of its 463 stores and has launched a big going-out-of-business sale, according to NBC's "Today" show. 

The chain filed for bankruptcy protection a few months back, but its attempts to restructure its debt failed.

The final sale in Sports Authority stores is expected to start this weekend and last until end of August. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[$martMoney]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 09:08:56 -0500 ]]> <![CDATA[Macy's Forecast Cut Ignites Retail Worries]]> Thu, 12 May 2016 07:37:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-530665646.jpg

Macy's reported disappointing quarterly sales Wednesday and slashed its full-year forecast, underscoring a slump in apparel demand at U.S. department stores, NBC News reported.

The bleak start to 2016 pushed its shares down nearly 14 percent to a more than 4-year low and weighed on shares of rivals on Wednesday.

It also stoked fear in the wider retail industry about how much consumers will spend in the months ahead. Apparel sales were also hurt by unseasonably cool weather in late March and early April, when retailers usually launch spring collections.

Macy's, whose profits have been shrinking for more than a year, said it would boost cost cutting and closing underperforming stores.

Macy's stock had lost 44 percent of its value in the past 12 months through Tuesday.



Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Proposed Rule May Allow Class-Action Suits Against Banks]]> Thu, 05 May 2016 17:14:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gavel-generic-stock.jpg

A rule proposed Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may ban mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from filing class-action lawsuits against their banks and credit card companies, NBC News reported. 

The proposed rule would prohibit financial services companies from including mandatory arbitration clauses that forbid class-action lawsuits. 

Supporters of the proposal say it will help keep companies honest, while opponents argue banks typically resolve disputes quickly and amicably. 

Arbitration clauses are generally embedded in the fine print of many financial institutions’ contracts, which many advocates say deny people the right to their day in court.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Ikea Announces Plans for First Wisconsin Location]]> Thu, 05 May 2016 13:21:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-536073699.jpg

Ikea has announced plans to open its first store in Wisconsin, expanding the retailer’s presence in the Midwest.

The company submitted plans Thursday for a location in Oak Creek, about 12 miles south of Milwaukee.

The 295,000-square-foot store would be built on 29 acres at the northwestern corner of Interstate 94 and Drexel Avenue, the company said. It plans to open the new location by summer 2018.

“We are excited at the possibility of growing our Midwestern U.S. presence with a Milwaukee-area store,” Ikea U.S. president Lars Petersson said in a statement. “A location in the retail corridor would provide our already 206,000 Milwaukee-area customers their own store.”

The store will include nearly 10,000 exclusively designed items, 50 room settings, three model home interiors, a restaurant and a play area for children.

The Wisconsin location joins stores in Bolingbrook and Schaumburg in Illinois and in the Twin Cities-area in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Ikea increased its average minimum hourly wage to $11.87, which is $4.62 above the current federal wage and marks a $1.11 increase, or 10 percent, from last year’s average minimum pay. The increase affected 32 percent of Ikea's 10,500 U.S. store workers and raised the average hourly wage to $15.45.



Photo Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sports Authority to Auction Assets on May 16]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 16:26:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sportsauthorityGettyImages-513327988.jpg

National retail chain Sports Authority's future looks pretty bleak. 

The company announced in early March that it planned to close 140 of its 463 stores and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware, using the store closings to attempt to save its finances.

But just last week, Sports Authority indicated it's giving up on that plan and choosing to auction itself off, according to Fortune. Despite media reports over the weekend, the company has not said whether it will shutter its entire fleet of stores, Fortune reported. 

Sports Authority told NBC in a statement Monday, "we are no longer pursuing the standalone Plan of Reorganization track because we could not get our lenders to agree on the terms of such a Plan."

The company added that it's "focusing solely" on the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) track and "pursuing a sale of some or all of the business."

The company said a number potential buyers have expressed interest in the sale. 

Sports Authority also said it will be moving forward with the plan to close about 140 stores and that the "outcome of the M&A process will determine whether any additional store closings will be required."

A court-supervised auction for the company's assets will be held on May 16, Fortune reported. The retail chain holds more than $1.1 billion in debt, and may be using the sale to help save its remaining stores.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rovi Buying TiVo in $1.1.B Cash-and-Stock Deal]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 07:42:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-51921649.jpg

Digital TV listing company Rovi is buying TiVo in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $1.1 billion.

Rovi Corp. said Friday that it will pay $10.70 in cash and stock for each TiVo Inc. share. Rovi will pay $2.75 per share in cash, or about $277 million. The rest, $7.95 per share, will be paid in stock.

Once the deal closes, the combined business will use the TiVo name. TiVo is a digital video recording company.

Rovi CEO Tom Carson will serve as CEO of the new company. The executive said in a written statement on Friday that the buyout will help to extend services across platforms and expand its customer base. The transaction will add more than 10 million TiVo-served households to Rovi's current customer base of about 18 million households using its guides globally.

The companies anticipate at least $100 million in annual cost savings. The transaction is expected to add to Rovi's adjusted earnings per share within the first year after closing.

Both companies' boards have approved the deal, which is targeted to close in the third quarter. It still needs approval from both companies' shareholders.

Shares of TiVo, based in San Jose, California, added 17 cents to $9.59 in premarket trading. Shares of Rovi, based in Santa Clara, California, surged $1.15, or 6.6 percent, to $18.50.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What To Do If You Are Audited by the IRS]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:25:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tax+envelope.jpg

You've received a letter from the IRS regarding an audit. Stay calm and assess the situation.

The letter you receive may be one of three types:

Adjustment Letter – This notifies you of a change in your taxes owed, or the refund amount. In this case, it is generally from an obvious wrong number entry or miscalculation on your form.

Correspondence Audit – This letter asks for further information to verify your tax return; such as a W-2 form that does not match the amount reported by your employer. The letter will tell you exactly what information is needed and how to respond. It is possible that your entire audit can be dealt with via correspondence. This is the most common form of audit.

Examination Audit – This in-person audit is what most people envision... and fear. The letter will let you know the nature of the audit, what information is needed, and how to schedule an in-person appointment. The appointment may take place in your home, place of business, or at an IRS office. You generally have ten days to schedule an appointment.

There is a comprehensive list of notices and letters at the IRS website, along with links for further explanation. All letters and notices will contain the reason for the letter, its purpose, and how to respond.

Once you have read your letter and understand the issue, what's next?

Step 1. Don't Ignore the Issue – Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. The issue may be simple, such as acknowledging a math error, and may only require sending a check. In any case, you have a set amount of time to reply. This varies depending on the type of notice, but it is typically 30 or 60 days. If you have to pay interest, the more you delay, the more you will have to pay.

Step 2. Do you Need Representation? – You probably need representation by a CPA or attorney if you disagree with their findings, cannot find the documentation the IRS requested, or have a more complex tax issue.

You are still responsible for your return even if you had a third party prepare it for you. Take advantage of whatever audit defense is included with your contract. Professional tax-preparation does not guarantee freedom from an audit.

Step 3. Audit Preparation – Gather all the information requested, and have it organized. Make sure you have the correct year – IRS audits can involve returns from up to three years prior, and two years is not uncommon. It is wise to keep records for up to six years.

Step 4. The Audit – Bring all the requested information with you, and answer the auditor's questions to the best of your ability. Do not bring extra information, or discuss other issues – stick to the focus of the audit. You may have your representative with you during the audit, and you may make an audio recording as long as you provide advance notice.

Step 5. The Conclusion – The auditor will either agree with you and resolve the matter, or rule against you and require you to pay some additional taxes. There may be penalties and interest charges that you are liable for as well. You can choose to pay, or fight in court if you think your chances of success are good and the amount at stake is much greater than the legal fees.

The good news is, if you filed your return honestly -- and maintained thorough documentation and proof of your deductions – any additional taxes due are likely to be manageable. Consequently, keep your records in order, follow the IRS instructions, and get representation as needed. Your audit experience should be less painful than you fear it will be. And if you do assume the fetal position, snap out of it long enough to take care of business.

This story first appeared on Moneytips.com. More from Moneytips:

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[DoJ Approves Charter Deal to Buy Time Warner Cable]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 18:36:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/475414152-charter-communications.jpg

The U.S. Justice Department approved Charter Communications' proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and Bright House networks on Monday, Reuters reports.

The Justice Department valued the purchase of Time Warner Cable at $78 billion and Bright House at $10.4 billion.

The deal must also be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will circulate an order on Monday seeking approval of the deal from the five-member commission with conditions, the Justice Department said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, file]]>
<![CDATA[Trans-Alaska Pipeline Resumes Oil Production After Fire ]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 19:51:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/160421-alaska-pipeline-749p_83a192ebac3e50487de2b8a05858d82a.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline resumed operations after a fire at a pumping station forced officials to shut it down on Wednesday, according to the company running the system, NBC News reported.

An employee noticed the flames at the pipeline’s pump station in the Coldfoot area near the Arctic Circle and the pipeline was shut down, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company said.

The pipeline was restarted at a reduced rate of about 400,000 barrels a day. The company said it was returning the pipeline to full operation. No injuries were reported.

The pipeline transports 545,000 barrels of oil — or just under 23 million gallons — a day.



Photo Credit: Alyeska Pipeline Service Company]]>
<![CDATA[Intel to Cut 12K Jobs, Reducing Workforce by 11 Percent]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 16:09:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/184*120/91022387.jpg

Shares of Intel fell nearly 3 percent after the bell Tuesday as it announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce, by 2017, due to restructuring, CNBC reports. 

Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, also said Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith would leave that role to lead sales.

The change comes as Intel customers are looking beyond PCs for the "next big experience," from cloud computing to personal assistant robots, CEO Brian Krzanich told CNBC at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, file]]>
<![CDATA[Last-Minute Tax Day Filing: How to Pay Uncle Sam at Deadline]]> Mon, 18 Apr 2016 10:31:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/210*120/GettyImages-88160312.jpg

Waiting until the last minute to pay your taxes can cost you if you are expecting a refund, since the government hangs on to your money and receives more interest on it. However, if you owe money to the government, that same principle applies to you.

Extending your deadline to file does not extend your payment time. You are expected to pay the amount you owe, or your best estimate, by the April 18th deadline.

If you do have to make an estimate, it is usually best to err toward overpaying. Paying too much can always be applied to next year’s taxes, but paying too little requires that you pay interest on the difference – and could expose you to an audit if you greatly underestimate the amount.

You have four general payment methods from which to choose: 

Check/Money Order – The classics never go out of style. The IRS accepts checks or money orders payable to the United States Treasury. Include your phone number, Social Security number, and the 1040-V payment voucher (or other voucher as appropriate for the tax form you are submitting). 

Credit/Debit Cards – There are six IRS-approved payment processors for credit or debit cards. Links to these vendors may be found on the IRS website. Debit card charges are usually flat fees ($2.50-$3.95) and credit cards are charged as a percentage fee (1.87 percent -2.25 percent).

Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW) – Essentially, this is the reverse of direct deposit. Most e-filing methods require EFW. This has to take place as part of the electronic filing process – you cannot initiate EFW after your taxes have been submitted.

Check with your financial institution and verify that they allow EFW transactions. If so, they will supply you with the routing number and account number for the account from which you wish to have the funds withdrawn. Do not assume that the routing number on your checks is the correct one – sometimes extra internal routing digits are included, and the numbers need to conform to the IRS standards.

You will need to supply a contact phone number, Social Security numbers for every filer, and a payment date. You can still choose to have your payment made on April 18th, even if your form is filed earlier.

Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) – This is the IRS-run equivalent of EFW. It has the advantage of allowing same-day wiring of funds from your account, and is useful for scheduling regular estimated tax payments for the self-employed. 

EFTPS requires registration with the IRS. It can take five to seven business days to register, so make sure you leave enough time for your registration process to be completed before your payment deadline expires.

Electronic methods can be used on all 1040 Series forms, but not all tax forms or taxes can be handled through electronic payments. For details, check the links available on the IRS website. This page also contains links for businesses to use in electronic payments.

Should the computer gremlins attack or you spill coffee on your keyboard, you can still pay by phone using one of the IRS-approved credit/debit card processors, or by calling the IRS directly and using EFTPS.

Choose whichever payment method works best for you, and pay at the last minute with confidence. Just do not forget to make that payment before the deadline, or you’ll have to make a much bigger payment later.

This story first appeared on Moneytips.com. More from Moneytips: 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wegmans Tops Grocery Store List]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 16:40:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wegmans-pub-bar-and-restaur.jpg

Trader Joe's is no longer America's favorite grocery store.

Wegmans tops Market Force’s 2016 list of America’s Favorite Grocery Retailers.

Market Force, a brand strategy firm, gave the Rochester, New York-based Wegmans a score of 76 percent in its Composite Loyalty Index. Wegmans edged out southern supermarket chain Publix and nationwide grocer Trader Joe’s.

Market Force asked customers to “to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others.” Wegmans topped the list after not gaining enough votes to make the list last year, said Market Force.

As part of the study, Market Force also looked at six categories, including cashier courtesy, cleanliness, checkout speed and item availability. Wegmans placed in the Top 3 of all categories expect for Cashier Courtesy, where it placed fifth.

Wegmans has 89 stores in six states. Cheryl Fink of Market Force told CNBC Wegmans stands out from other chains because of its specialty items and brands and quick cash out experience. 

Wegmans did not respond to a request for comment. 



Photo Credit: NBCPhiladelphia.com]]>
<![CDATA[Why The 2016 Tax Deadline Isn't April 15]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 11:04:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/irsGettyImages-56043781.jpg

Most people know April 15 as the deadline for submitting personal tax returns, but that's not the case this year. 

For the 2016 deadline, the Internal Revenue Service has given taxpayers in all but two states until Monday, April 18 to pay their taxes. 

When the date falls on a weekend, it is often moved to the following Monday. But this year, April 15 is a Friday.

Here's what's happening. The IRS is observing a holiday that is usually only observed in Washington, D.C.

Emancipation Day marks the day the Compensated Emancipation Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and is observed April 16.

It's a legal holiday in D.C., and public employees are given the day off work. However, because this April 16 falls on a Saturday, it is celebrated on the closest weekday, which is Friday, April 15.

This means public employees such as those who work for the IRS will have April 15 off work, so that pushes the tax deadline to the next business day: Monday, April 18.

For taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts, another holiday pushes their tax deadline back to Tuesday, April 19. This legal holiday is Patriots’ Day, and it is always observed in the two states on the third Monday of April.

However, the first installment for estimated tax payments is due Monday, April 18, whether or not the person lives in Maine or Massachusetts. That's because estimated tax payments are required to be sent to another state that does not observe the holiday.

For full information visit IRS.gov

This article was provided by our partners at moneytips.com
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<![CDATA[Zuckerberg Announces Facebook Chatbot Venture]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:51:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/Facebook-generic-1.jpg

Facebook announced Tuesday it will let developers build chatbots – interactive, responsive messaging programs – to communicate directly with people, CNBC reports.

The announcement came at its annual F8 global developer conference, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the future of the company.

If successful, Facebook could effectively leapfrog the app economy, and create its own thriving digital ecosystem where users can communicate with automated representatives for brands and businesses within Facebook's platforms.

But another high-profile chatbot release was recently ridiculed and quickly pulled from the web. Microsoft released a chatbot on Twitter last month named Tay, but promptly shut her down after she tweeted a flood of racist messages after being prompted by other users.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA['Pregnancy Penalty' Can Affect Pay of Women Without Kids]]> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 16:19:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/595346485-pregnancy-penalty-file-image.jpg

As women fight what has been an uphill battle for equal pay, they continue to face another exacerbating factor: being penalized for the fact that they could – regardless of whether they will – have children, NBC News reports.

While much of the public discussion of the "wage gap" has focused on women getting equal pay for the same work as their male peers, this quiet "pregnancy penalty" has gotten less attention, in part because it's so much more difficult to measure. But some experts argue that even the mere possibility that a woman can have a baby can be enough for employers to push her to the back of the line.

"It is often the case that mothers are held to a higher standard than others in the work place," said Emily Martin, general counsel with the National Women's Law Center. "And they are penalized if they cannot meet that standard."

This higher standard is due to an antiquated notion that women who are pregnant are perpetually preoccupied with their babies and cannot possibly be productive, said "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" author Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department.



Photo Credit: File – Getty Images/Hero Images]]>
<![CDATA[Navy Pier Summer Job Fair Sells Out]]> Thu, 07 Apr 2016 18:07:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/navy+pier+disturbance.jpg

Turns out the idea of working along Chicago’s lakefront at an iconic landmark turning 100 this summer sounds like a dream job to a lot of people.

Navy Pier's Thursday first-ever job fair has sold out.

Ahead of its historic centennial celebration this summer, Navy Pier is hosting a job fair from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Crystal Gardens.  Nearly 30 pier businesses are seeking to hire more than 900 seasonal workers. Job opportunties are available for Navy Pier and its partners along the pier, including bars, boats, restaurants and, yes, the new Ferris wheel.

Most opportunities are for seasonal work through the summer of 2016.

Attendees were required to pre-register for this event, which is now full. Navy Pier set a registration capacity limit of 2,500 applicants and that number was reached mid-week last week. Those who were interested in the event but were not able to register in advance can check out the Navy Pier employment site to view available job postings. 

Navy Pier reminded job seekers to bring multiple copies of their resumes and wear professional attire.

Here’s the full list of participating partners:

Navy Pier
Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze
American’s Dog
Auntie Anne’s
Ben & Jerry’s
Big Bowl Chinese Express
Big Bus Chicago
Big City Chicken
Bike and Roll Chicago
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
Build A Bear Workshop
Chango Loco
Chicago Children’s Museum
Color Inc.
Completely Nuts
DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar
Entertainment Cruises
Faces In Focus
Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice
Garrett’s Popcorn
Giordano’s
Harry Caray’s
Jimmy Buffet’s Magaritaville
Life in the Windy City & Varsity Stop Outfitters
McDonald’s
Navy Pier IMAX Theatre
Oh Yes Chicago!
Photogenic, Inc
Porkchop
Riva Crab House
Shoreline Sightseeing
 

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<![CDATA[Lawsuit Says Starbucks Underfilling Lattes]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:03:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Starbucks_Latte_511143580.jpg

A lawsuit filed in a Northern California federal court last week accuses Starbucks of deliberately underfilling its latte cups by 25 percent in order to save money, The Seattle Times reported.

The suit said Starbucks routinely leaves about 1/4 inch of milk foam at the top of the 16-ounce "grande" lattes, leaving space once the foam settles. It's Starbucks' own "standardized recipe," according to the lawsuit. 

"Today's" Rossen Reports bought the same grande latte at six different Starbucks locations, then measured them in laboratory-grade beakers after allowing the foam to settle.

All of the cups missed the 16-ounce mark, with only two cups coming close.

Starbucks told NBC News the lawsuit and Rossen Reports' experiment are "unscientific" and "without merit."



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Over 200k Orders for New Tesla]]> Sat, 02 Apr 2016 09:29:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/AP_508328161795.jpg

The electric car company that drove its loyal fans into a frenzy of anticipation usually associated with iPhones and Xboxes unveiled its new, lower-priced model Friday at an event in Southern California.

Some of those fans had already put down deposits on Tesla Motors' Model 3 sedan before it was introduced Thursday night at the company's design studio in Hawthorne. The Model 3 doesn't go on sale until late 2017, but in the first 24 hours that order banks were open, Tesla said it had more than 115,000 reservations.

By Friday evening, that number reached 232,000, according to the company.

"Definitely going to need to rethink production planning," a surprised CEO Elon Musk said on his Twitter feed.

Long lines at Tesla stores, reminiscent of the crowds at Apple stores for early models of the iPhone, were reported in California, Hong Kong to Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. before the Model 3's glitzy unveiling Thursday night. Potential buyers put down a $1,000 deposit to reserve the car.

At a starting price of $35,000 -- before federal and state government incentives -- the Model 3 is less than half the cost of Tesla's previous models. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the car will go at least 215 miles when fully charged, about double what drivers get from current competitors in its price range, such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

Prototypes shown Thursday night looked like a shorter version of Tesla's Model S sedan. The Model 3 has a panoramic glass roof and an elongated hood. Inside, it seats five adults and has the same large touchscreen dashboard as other Teslas. It also has Tesla's suite of semi-autonomous driving features, including automatic lane changing and lane keeping. Musk said it will accelerate from zero to 60 in less than 6 seconds.

Musk said the car is on schedule to go on sale at the end of 2017, eliciting a cheer from the crowd of around 800 people. Tesla has a history of missing deadlines for its vehicles to hit the market.

"I do feel fairly confident it will be next year," Musk said.

The Model 3 is the most serious test yet of 13-year-old Tesla's ability to go from a niche player to a full-fledged automaker. It could be the car that finally makes electrics mainstream -- or consumers could continue to be skeptical that electrics will work for everyday use. In the U.S., they still make up less than 1 percent of annual sales. Either way, the Model 3 is already changing the industry, spurring competitors to speed development of electric cars and improve their battery range.

General Motors Co. is set to start selling the Chevrolet Bolt electric car at the end of this year. The Bolt will have a similar price tag and a 200-mile range. Hyundai's Ioniq, which has a 110-mile electric range and could match Tesla on price, goes on sale this fall. Audi will follow with an electric SUV in 2018.

Musk said last month he's not worried. He thinks the Model 3 will compete most directly with small luxury cars such as the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series.

Musk said Tesla will expand its stores and its fast-charging Supercharger stations globally in order to support the Model 3. He said the company plans to double its stores worldwide to 441 by the end of 2017, and it will double its Superchargers to 7,200. Tesla will also add thousands of its so-called destination charging stations at hotels and other locations.

Right now, Tesla sells two vehicles: The Model S sedan, which starts at $71,000, and the Model X SUV, which starts around $80,000. But a lower-priced car was Musk's longtime goal. Musk said the Model S and Model X, along with Tesla's first car, the discontinued Roadster sports car, helped Tesla make the money to invest in the Model 3.

"We needed to figure out how we, as a tiny company with very few resources, could make a difference," he said.

Tesla lowered the cost of the car, in part, by making cheaper batteries. The company previously assembled its battery packs with cells made in Japan by Panasonic Corp. But Tesla and Panasonic are building a massive, $5 billion factory in Nevada which will supply batteries for the Model 3. Tesla says the scale of the factory will lower the cost of its battery packs by 30 percent.

The Model 3 puts Tesla within reach of millions more customers. Last year, only 2.1 percent of new cars purchased in the U.S. cost $75,000 or more, but 35 percent -- or 5.5 million -- cost $35,000 or more, according to TrueCar. The Model 3 is a critical part of the money-losing automaker's plan to increase sales from around 85,000 this year to 500,000 by 2020.

Robin Santucci got the sixth spot in line when he arrived at the Santa Monica, California, Tesla store at 3:45 a.m. Thursday. By 9 a.m., he estimated there were 200 people in line. Santucci has admired Tesla for years. When he got his current car, an electric Fiat 500, he made sure the lease would run out at the end of 2017 so his next car could be the Model 3.

"The design of every other car they've put out is beautiful," said Santucci, who works in digital advertising and lives in West Hollywood.

Santucci added that he didn't want to wait too long to order a car because the federal tax credit of $7,500 will sunset once Tesla sells 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. That is still likely several years away, although a ticker at the Tesla event showed orders continuing to rise throughout the night.

Potential buyers also lined up overnight in Burbank. Tesla said that deposits are "fully refundable" and can be applied to the purchase of a Model S or X.

"For me, personally, I just wanted to one of the first in line to get the tax credit," said Peter Peng, who was at the Burbank store Wednesday night. "To me, this is bigger than the iPhone, it's bigger than the X-Box. It's a car. Tesla is such an innovative company on the cusp of cutting edge technology. It's the first affordable car in its range."

Campers cited a broad range of reasons for their dedication to a brand that has developed Apple-like loyalty. Some liked the unrivaled range. Others were attracted to the style, technology and performance.
Shayan Keshmairn arrived at 4 a.m. The lower price and impressive EV range convinced him to get up early and visit the Burbank store.

Then, there was Mike Nescovic from Serbia.

"I am great Tesla fan, and for me this is patriotic duty," said Nescovic, wearing a jacket and stocking hat outside the Burbank store. "I'm from Serbia, and Nikola Tesla, scientist, was from Serbia."

The company does not use a traditional dealer model to distribute and service its vehicles. The Burbank store is one of 11 from Laguna Niguel in Orange County to the San Fernando Valley. Campers also waited overnight at stores in the Bay Area.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Condoms, Sodas and Snacks: Amazon Expands Dash Button Program]]> Thu, 31 Mar 2016 13:42:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Amazon+Dash+Button.jpg

You can now dash for condoms on Amazon.

One year after the company unveiled its Amazon Dash Buttons, which allow customers to order goods with the push of a physical button, the company announced Thursday it is expanding the number of products available through the program.

Dash Buttons are small, Internet-connected devices that consumers can click to purchase household essentials. When a customer sees supplies running low, they simply press a Dash Button to place an order, never having to worry about running out of coffee, garbage bags or toilet paper.

Initially launched on March 31, 2015, with a handful of companies, many thought the program was a prank because of the proximity to April Fool's Day. But Amazon Dash now has over 100 buttons, representing top-name brands across dozens of retail categories and thousands of products. Whether supply is low on Trojan condoms, your Vichy moisturizer or snacks for the kids, Amazon Dash has a button for that.

Daniel Rausch, Director of Amazon Dash, said in the company's press release that orders for Dash have grown more than 75 percent in the last three months and "customers are using Dash Buttons more than once a minute."

"We’re thrilled with the positive response we’ve seen for Dash Buttons—and we heard loud and clear from customers that they wanted more brands, more categories, and more products in the program," Rausch added.

Dash buttons are available to Amazon Prime members in the U.S. essentially for free. Customers have to pay $4.99 upfront for each one, but that payment is then reimbursed after the first purchase using the button. The products are sent via Prime's free two-day shipping option. 



Photo Credit: Amazon.com]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Driver Challenges Rejected Pothole Damage Claim]]> Wed, 30 Mar 2016 17:46:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/potholer.jpg

A Chicago driver said the city is at fault for damage to her car caused by a pothole. But she said even with a mountain of evidence, the city won’t take the blame.

Emily Mensching said she was driving on West Peterson last May when her car started shaking.

“I heard it the second it happened and I thought I had just popped a tire,” Mensching said.

In fact, two of her tires popped and her wheel rims were cracked. She paid a local car dealership more than $1,400 to repair the damage.

Mensching filed a 311 report with the city. She also said she saw other people had filed similar 311 reports about the same location.

“Clearly, I was one of several people who had their car damaged by this,” Mensching said.

Mensching and her husband returned to the scene the next day and took photos of cars hitting the same pothole. She said there were also hubcaps near the pothole.

NBC 5 Responds spoke to the dealership that repaired Mensching’s vehicle. One of their service employees said he saw two cars on the same day damaged by the same pothole.

Mensching said that is a big reason why she said the city should hold itself accountable.

“I’d like them to pay for the damages, because it’s not my fault that they didn’t fix the road and they knew it was a problem,” Mensching said.

Mensching filed a claim with the city to recoup her repair costs. But the city rejected her claim. She said the city told her she was speeding based on an on-site assessment by city workers. However, she said she never received a speeding ticket.

“It just felt like they were trying to blame me for their lack of diligence in taking care of their roads,” Mensching said.

A city spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds there were no open complaints about the West Peterson pothole at the time of Mensching’s incident.

Still, motorists who have their pothole claims approved should not expect to receive the entire amount they’re seeking. After you gather your police report, records, estimates and receipts and file a claim, get ready to wait several months for answer. It’s ultimately up to Chicago City Council to approve or deny your claim.

According to the city’s committee on finance, in 2015 the city paid $812,500 on 4,081 claims.

The city has since repaired the pothole on West Peterson.

Mensching said she is talking to a lawyer and may file a lawsuit against the city in small claims court.

“I understand it’s Chicago and we’re going to have potholes,” Mensching said. “I’d be a lot happier to know that I’ve been vindicated and not being accused of being a bad driver because clearly they knew that this was a problem.”

Click here to file a pothole claim.

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<![CDATA[How To Collect Class Action Settlement Cash You May Be Owed]]> Mon, 28 Mar 2016 17:59:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/money+generic+responds.jpg

You may think twice about tossing your junk mail if it contains the key to collecting unclaimed money.
 
NBC 5 Responds has learned consumers may be failing to collect on class action settlements that range from just a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. 

For example, if you took home tubes of Tom’s Toothpaste over the past few years, you may be entitled to some cash depending on what you bought.
 
The website TopClassAction.com alerts consumers to class action settlements. According to the site, millions of dollars are left unclaimed because people simply don’t know about the settlements. If consumers are notified by the courts, they may receive densely worded mailings that may look like junk mail to some people.
 
“The companies usually want to make the class notice as confusing and complicated as they possibly can,” consumer attorney Stuart Talley said. “They don’t want people to take advantage of the benefits.”
 
Consumers who search the website may find settlements related to many different kinds of products and services, including home appliances, gift cards, dog food, mortgages, insurance and pharmaceuticals.

It’s important to know there are deadlines to file a class action settlement claim.  The deadline for Tom’s Toothpaste claims is in early May.

Settlement money that goes unclaimed will sometimes go to charity or be handed back to the defendant.

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<![CDATA[Spring Break Scams Target Would-Be Vacationers]]> Fri, 25 Mar 2016 18:58:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/beachGettyImages-480297417.jpg

Shelly Stamis saw an online advertisement for a vacation home in Florida at only $200 a night, and she figured she had found a solid bargain.

"We looked at all the pictures, and it was right on the beach, and it was definitely in our price zone, so we booked it," the Grand Rapids, Michigan, mom told NBC News.

Shelly wired $1,500 to a bank account in Florida and packed up her two children, but when they arrived everything went wrong. Shelly found out she was a victim of a growing form of online scam that targets travelers booking hotels and vacation homes, enticing them with too-good-to-be-true deals.

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 15 million scam reservations were made last year, costing Americans over a billion dollars. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF]]>
<![CDATA[Easter Is Like Christmas for Candy Industry]]> Fri, 25 Mar 2016 12:35:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/eastercandy.jpg

Easter is the winner when it comes to candy sales in the U.S., CNBC reported.

Americans spent over $800 million last year on creme-filled eggs, chocolate rabbits and colored marshmallow Peeps in the week leading up to Easter, Nielsen data shows. That narrowly beat Halloween as the most lucrative week of the year for candy retailers. Valentine's Day was third on the list.

The study showed that more pounds of candy are actually purchased during the week leading up to Halloween, but in total dollars, Easter is king.

"In the weeks around Halloween consumers are buying in bulk with a volume mentality for the trick-or-treaters," said Carman Allison, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen. "Easter and Valentine's Day are more gift based purchases where premium packaging plays a role in what consumers purchase for their loved ones and how much they are willing to spend."

Although there is spike in candy sales during certain holidays, Americans love their candy regardless, spending about $300 million for roughly 76 million pounds on any given week.



Photo Credit: LightRocket via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks Announces Debut of Pumpkin Spice Latte K-Cups]]> Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:55:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Starbucks_Pumpkin_Spice_Caffe_Latte_KCup_.JPG

Lovers of Starbucks' seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte can get their fix this year without extra-long lines or texting secret passwords for early access.

The autumnal fan-favorite drink will be available for the first time as a K-Cup.

Grocery stores nationwide are expected to carry Pumpkin Spice Caffe Latte K-Cup packs for a limited time this fall, a Starbucks spokesperson said. Suggested retail is $9.99 for a 10-count K-Cup pack and $12.99 for a 16-count pack.

Brace yourself for this dreamy description of the forthcoming latte: "Customers will be able to enjoy this creamy fall sip – swirling with real pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors combined with dairy – specially crafted to be enjoyed at home and complement our smooth, balanced Caffe Blend made from 100 percent arabica coffee."

Count us in.

The pumpkin spice K-Cup flavor is one of several from Starbucks, according to reports. Others include caramel, mocha and vanilla, as well as the seasonal peppermint mocha.

Last year, Starbucks released a new Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe, pushed back the annual debut date by a couple days and passed around a PSL Fan Pass with a top-secret password for customers to gain early access to the drink.



Photo Credit: Starbucks]]>
<![CDATA[Pay-Per-Article News App Launches in US ]]> Wed, 23 Mar 2016 16:12:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Blendle-AP_1603222133275898.jpg

A news app will launch on Wednesday in the U.S. with 20 of the country’s largest newspaper and magazine publishers jumping on as partners, according to NBC News.

Blendle, created by journalist-turned-entrepreneur, Alexander Klöpping, is partnering with The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Condé Nast and will be available to a select group of 10,000 users.

The app runs ad-free, and is aimed at a younger audience that is used to paying for music and movies on Spotify and Netflix. Newspaper stories will average $0.19 to $0.39 per article and magazine stories will run between $0.09 and $0.49.

"What Spotify became for music, what Netflix became for movies, we try to be for journalism," Klöpping told NBC News. "Our success in Holland and in Germany shows that people will pay for quality journalism if you take out the hassle and give them the best selection of articles in one place."

Blendle debuted in April 2014 and has amassed 650,000 users. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>