National / International News
While in Alaska, President Obama will be a guest on a survival show that takes celebrities into the wilderness to eat mice, repel off cliffs and more.
On today's show, competition for the arctic heats up; medical debt collectors are up in arms over a new ruling by the FCC; and how habits adopted by consumers in the midst of recession are hard to shake.
Authorities had been allowing migrants to travel without checking passports but on Tuesday, the station was closed and migrants began protesting.
27 million Americans were contacted by a collection agency about unpaid medical bills last year.
A new FCC ruling now makes it more difficult to track those bad debtors down on their cell phones, according to the collection industry.
The new rule clarifies that collection agencies can ‘robo-call’ someone on their cell, but only if that person consented to those calls for billing issues.
Robert Foehl with the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals says the problem is when a person changes numbers.
“You are still on the hook from a liability perspective if you make a call to a new person who owns that phone,” he says.
That means companies could face fines of up to $1500 per call.
Medical debt is big business in the U.S.
According to NerdWallet, Americans paid three times more for medical debt than bank and credit-card debt combined in 2012, collecting $21 billion from consumers.
Margot Saunders, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, says the FCC ruling may prompt the industry to curb its practices.
“This is a situation where debt collectors are calling the wrong people far too many times,” she says.
Saunders says companies will only pay fines if consumers feel harassed and file a complaint.
She says industry has other options including email, ‘non-robo calls,’ and snail mail.
The industry argues that adds expense that will be passed on.
Susan Samtur’s bargain-hunting ability made her famous because of shopping trips like a recent one to Walgreens, where she sliced a $19.08 bill nearly in half at checkout by applying in-store savings and multiple coupons. To top it off, she had points on a loyalty card, which brought her out-of-pocket payment down to mere pennies.
“It cost us 68 cents. What do you think about that?” she beams.
''Coupon Queen'' Susan Samtur plots her next move.Mark Garrison/Marketplace
Eye-popping receipts like that are why a TV show dubbed her the Coupon Queen some years back. The name stuck, and she launched a whole career sharing savings tips through books, appearances, her own website and more recently, an app that’s something of a Tinder for discounts.
Samtur has made a nice living doing this; enough to support a comfortable life in suburban New York and a gleaming silver Lexus that she drives from store to store. Even though she’s under no pressure to pinch pennies, she still clips coupons and scours the web for deals, hitting multiple stores per week to get the best prices.
Samtur’s habits may sound a bit extreme. But these days, more and more Americans are shopping like her. Recent data from Deloitte, which tracks these things, finds consumers are visiting six stores per week on average to buy groceries. That’s about a 20 percent boost from the previous year. Frugal habits developed during the recession show no signs of going away, even as evidence of economic recovery grows.
“The behaviors that they developed in terms of using coupons, in terms of hunting for deals, those are entrenched,” says Rich Nanda, a principal at Deloitte.
That means retailers have to figure out how to deal with armies of Susan Samturs. With customers searching online for bargains and willing to travel to get them, old-school pricing tactics don’t work as well. Stores have long discounted certain items to get customers in. But that only works out for retailers if shoppers stick around to buy other stuff.
Stores need people to stay and shop, not score deals and dash. Faced with a new consumer reality, stores are having to try new things.
“Supermarkets are offering kind of in-store cooking demonstrations. They have in-store chefs that are helping families and trying to engage them,” says David Fikes, a vice president at the Food Marketing Institute, which represents the food retail industry.
Stores now have to work harder to build an experience that’ll keep customers in stores longer. That includes everything from textbook customer service to new ideas, such as bars where shoppers pick up cocktails to sip while browsing produce.
The economic downturn made the American shopper craftier. Now it’s retailers finding they need to evolve along with them.
Netflix says it's giving up its partnership with the cable network Epix. So by the end of this month, if you want to watch "Hunger Games: Catching Fire," you'll have to go to Hulu, Epix's new partner. Netflix is focusing on original content for its 65 million members. Is Hulu's gain Netflix's loss?
Netflix calls itself the world's leading internet television network. Key word: television. Jennifer Holt, associate professor of film and media studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says people are thinking of Netflix less as a place to catch big movies, "and more toward Netflix as a source for original television-like programming."
Holt says that's why losing blockbuster movies to Hulu won't be a big blow. "In the industry, most of the money is made in television anyway," she says.
Abe Sauer covers entertainment marketing for Brandchannel.com. He says no one's going to leave Netflix because it doesn't have "Thor."
"But people will come to Netflix because Netflix has 'Orange Is the New Black' or some really popular show that it owns," he says.
There were huge licensing expenses for films that most people had already seen by the time they showed up on Netflix. For Netflix, Sauer says, playing the middleman just wasn't worth it.
That's about how much cash (likely more) is at Tim Cook's disposal for spending at Apple. And according to new reports, one focus of expansion for the company will be original programming. As Variety reports, Apple has come under some criticism for allowing Netflix and other streaming services to completely dominate this corner of the market.6
According to new data from Deloitte, that's how many stores on average consumers visit per week to buy groceries. Why so many trips? Habits developed by shoppers during the recession are sticking around. It's how conscientious buyers like Susan Samtur found their way to couponing. And now, Samtur has made a career out of it.$20
That's how much Hubert Tang found on the ground outside San Francisco International Airport last week. If you're already bored with this story, you should know that Tang used the money to buy two scratch-off lottery tickets in his hometown of Millbrae, California, one of which led to a $1 million prize. As the Associated Press writes, Tang could also still win $25,000 from the other, ticket he purchased.27 million
That's how many Americans were contacted by collection agencies about an unpaid medical bill last year. But that number may soon come down. A new ruling by the Federal Communications Commission clarifies that collection agencies can "robo-call" someone on a cell, but only if that person consented to those calls for billing issues. That becomes tricky for companies making the calls if people change their number, especially if someone new takes over an old number. Faulty calls could cost debt collectors $1,500 in fines per call.
A new book details that the women were not personal friends, but they were strong allies on the Supreme Court bench, especially in the legal fight for women's equality.