MONEY freebies

Free Smoothies at White Castle on Sunday

White Castle restaurant sign
K. L. Howard—Alamy

Who knew White Castles had smoothies?

White Castle wants you know it’s come a long way from its days as a beloved late-night greasy burger hangout for Harold and Kumar, the Beastie Boys, and their legions of followers. White Castle now has restaurants in the West—Las Vegas, where a location on the Strip has generated record-setting sales—and the menu has been expanded to include new flavors (Sriracha sliders) and even some healthy(ish) options.

The “Original Slider” chain introduced veggie sliders to the menu late last year, and in recent weeks it rolled out a choice of two new fruit smoothies: Peach and Strawberry Banana. Both flavors are made with Dole fruit and Yoplait low-fat yogurt.

And here’s your excuse to give the chain’s smoothies a taste: On Sunday, May 24, customers who present this coupon at participating White Castle locations are welcomed to their choice of smoothie in a 10-oz. size.

MONEY groceries

Eggs Aren’t The Only Thing That Just Got More Expensive

French fries and Egg McMuffins, we're looking at you.

More than half of American consumers say they are concerned about the bird flu outbreak, according to an NPD Group survey. And yes, there’s ample reason to fret: The virus has killed nearly 40 million birds, including 32 million hens, or about 10% of the nation’s egg producers. Understandably, egg prices have spiked as a consequence. The incredible edible egg isn’t the only everyday purchase that is getting more expensive for consumers lately. The price tags on these items are also going up.

  • Eggs

    Eggs produced from cage-free hens on sale in a supermarket in New York on Saturday, January 3, 2015. The recent outbreak of Avian Flu which impacted 10% of the egg-laying chickens has cut into the supply of eggs.
    Richard B. Levine—Newscom

    The bird flu outbreak has been wreaking havoc in the Midwest, with some 40 million turkeys and chicken exposed to the virus. Roughly 25 million chickens have been lost just in Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer. One result is that wholesale and retail egg prices have soared. The wholesale price of “breaker” eggs purchased in bulk by fast food chains and baking manufacturers has nearly tripled in the past month, while the price of a dozen large eggs rose 58% in one month’s time in the Midwest.

    If the problem persists, it’s expected it won’t be long for baking companies and fast food outlets like McDonald’s to raise prices on products with eggs as primary ingredients. In other words, your Egg McMuffin could be getting a price hike soon.

  • Rental Cars

    Airport car rental offices at the Long Beach California Airport
    Daniel Dillon—Alamy

    It’s usually hard to tell when and by how much rental car companies increase prices because there are so many factors involved: Rates are determined by demand, location, how far in advance a traveler books, and so on. But recently Hertz, which also owns brands Dollar and Thrifty, publicly announced that as of mid-June it was raising rates $5 per day and $20 per week on rentals at airport locations, with $3 and $10 hikes, respectively, at off-airport rental lots.

    A quick 5% spike in Hertz’s stock price indicates that investors liked the move. That could be one reason why Hertz jacked up prices openly rather than stealthily. It also seems like Hertz is trying to push rates northward across the board in the industry, in the same way that all airlines tend to match the fare increases of any competitor. “Rent-a-car companies are normally very discreet about raising prices,” Mike Millman, who covers travel companies for Millman Research, told the New York Post. “What’s so unusual about this is Hertz is publicly declaring it wants to lead the industry up.”

  • Deep-Fried Foods

    French Fries coming out of fryer
    Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

    A prolonged dry spell in Canada’s prairies has meant big trouble for the crops used to make of one of the region’s prime products, canola oil. As Bloomberg News reported, the vegetable oil is necessary for McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, and Frito-Lay to make so many of the deep-fried treats we crave while knowing they’re probably terrible for our health. Prices have jumped 18% since September, and it’s expected the increase will trickle onward to price hikes for potato chips, French fries, KFC chicken, and other deep-fried delicacies.

  • Turkey

    Shady Brook Farms brand Turkeys for sale in a supermarket refrigerator in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    While the bird flu outbreak has primarily affected chickens, it has impacted turkey populations as well—and turkey prices. Wholesale prices are up 4.5% compared with a year ago, corresponding to 10% price increases for turkey breast meat at supermarket deli counters.

    The real fear is that the avian flu virus causes a ripple effect in America’s turkey population, potentially translating to shortages and price spikes for Thanksgiving, when the demand for turkey naturally reaches a yearlong high. For now at least, suppliers are maintaining that there will be more than plenty of turkeys available come Thanksgiving. Regardless, we’re predicting that there will be reports causing panic among turkey lovers in the months to come, as they seem to appear every autumn.

  • Gas

    Gas station attendant pumping gas in Andover, Mass., May 8, 2015.
    Elise Amendola—AP

    Just in time for the summer travel season, gas prices are rising. As of Friday, the national average for a gallon of regular was $2.74, representing a rise of roughly 25¢ over the last month. Gas prices have remained particularly pricey on the West Coast, with drivers in Los Angeles seeing $4 per gallon at the pump. With California prices that have stayed stubbornly high compared to the rest of the country, some consumer advocates have accused the oil companies of gouging drivers.

    At the same time, it must be noted that gas is significantly less expensive compared with the same time last year, when the national average was $3.65. Cheap gas is one of the big reasons huge crowds—and epic traffic—are expected on the roads over Memorial Day weekend.

MONEY Holidays

Memorial Day Weekend Traffic, Sales & More, By the Numbers

We know for sure that during the holiday weekend, sales will be big, traffic will be heavy, and many, many hot dogs will be eaten. Here's a big roundup of fun factoids about the holiday weekend ahead.

  • 95¢

    In this May 8, 2015 photo, vehicles drive past a gas station in Andover, Mass. Even after the typical springtime run-up, the average price for gallon of regular gasoline should top out around $2.60.
    Elise Amendola—AP

    Approximate difference in the price of a gallon of regular gasoline this Memorial Day, compared to the holiday weekend in 2014. Even as gas prices have surged steadily for over a month, filling up the tank is substantially cheaper than it was a year ago. The last time gas was this cheap over Memorial Day weekend, it was 2009.

  • 5%

    Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel resort exterior property swimming pool, Orlando, Florida
    Rosa Irene Betancourt—Alamy

    Average percentage rise in hotel rates this year compared to 2014. According to Priceline data, daily room rates over Memorial Day weekend are up even more than that in cities such as Orlando and Dallas, while prices at Virginia Beach, Detroit, and Fort Lauderdale have fallen compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, forecasts from AAA call for a 16% increase in rates at lower-end (two-star) hotels over the weekend.

  • 14

    person clicking seatbelt
    Getty Images

    Number of days that police around the country are aggressively enforcing a “Click It or Ticket” campaign to get drivers and auto passengers to wear seatbelts. Look for police to pull cars over and issue a disproportionately high number of tickets for not wearing seatbelts from May 18 to 31.

  • 14+

    Colonial Williamsburg
    Bob Stefko—Getty Images Colonial Williamsburg

    Number of freebies and special discounts available to veterans and active military on or around Memorial Day, per sites such as Military.com and MilitaryBenefits.info. For instance, at Colonial Williamsburg, admission is free this weekend for all active duty, reservists, retirees, and veterans—and their dependents get in free as well.

  • 25

    War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers, Macon, Georgia
    Sean Pavone—Alamy

    Approximate number of American cities that have laid claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, the majority of which are in the South and held celebrations in the aftermath of the Civil War. (One of them is Macon, Ga., whose War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers is pictured above.)

  • 54%

    George W. Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas, USA
    Alamy

    Percentage of Americans who said they prefer to travel on non-holiday weekends rather than holidays like Memorial Day, according to a survey conducted for Citi ThankYou Premier card. Only 11% named Memorial Day as the best summer holiday for travel.

  • 57%

    man grilling fish
    Stephen Lux—Getty Images

    Percentage of Americans who say they will grill food on the barbecue during Memorial Day weekend.

  • 60% to 70%

    Cabela’s, Scarborough, Maine
    Gregory Rec—Portland Press Herald via Getty

    Discount off the original prices that shoppers can expect during many Memorial Day sales.

  • $199

    2015 Buick Verano Turbo
    Tom Drew 2015 Buick Verano Turbo

    The hot per-month lease price available for more than two dozen new vehicles during the busy holiday weekend, according to Edmunds.com. The auto research site also notes that there are an exceptionally large number of 0% financing offers in May, including 0% financing deals on several Toyota and Nissan vehicles and most Ford models.

  • 383

    overturned car
    Sebastien Cote—Getty Images

    Estimated number of fatalities from traffic crashes that will take place over Memorial Day weekend, according to the National Safety Council. Drivers and passengers can expect another car crash-related 46,300 injuries over the weekend as well.

  • 818

    hot dogs on plate
    Greg Elms—Getty Images

    Number of hot dogs consumed every second in the U.S. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, known as peak hot dog season, when we’ll collectively wolf down 7 billion dogs.

     

  • $200,000+

    toasting with beer pints
    John Giustina—Getty Images

    Amount of money raised for military-focused charities last year with the release of a special craft beer, Homefront IPA. Ten craft brewers have made their own versions of Homefront IPA for the charity effort this year, and the official release date for the brews is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

  • 1.75 Million

    Passengers board a Bolt bus to New York in Washington, D.C.
    Jay Mallin—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Projected total number of travelers in the U.S. boarding buses on rides of 50 miles or more from Wednesday, May 20, through Monday, May 25. That would be a 5% rise over the holiday period last year, and the highest total for Memorial Day weekend bus travel in 25 years.

  • 37.2 Million

    Interstate I-10, Arizona
    Natalia Bratslavsky—Alamy

    Number of Americans that AAA is projecting will travel at least 50 miles from home over the big holiday weekend. That would represent a 4.7 increase over last year, and the highest volume of Memorial Day traffic since 2005. Nearly 9 in 10 travelers will get to their destinations this weekend via automobile.

  • 42+ Million

    U.S. Marines march during the National Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, May 27, 2013.
    Yuri Gripas—Reuters

    Number of American men and women who have served their country in the armed services during war time over the centuries; approximately 1.2 million lost their lives in the course of their service.

MONEY Autos

5 Reasons This Could Be the Worst Road Trip Weekend Ever

Crazy traffic is a given. But that's hardly the only reason Memorial Day could be a nightmare for road trips.

In a new survey conducted for Citi cards, 54% of Americans said they prefer to travel on non-holiday weekends rather than holidays like Memorial Day. The most common reasons given for staying home for the holidays were traffic (47%) and high costs (30%).

Maybe these people are on to something. Here are a handful of reasons why the Memorial Day weekend is shaping up as a less-than-ideal time for getting on the road. As you’ll see, traffic and high costs are only part of the problem.

Horrendous Traffic
The forecast from AAA calls for 37.2 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home over the big holiday weekend. That’s an increase of nearly 5% compared with Memorial Day 2014, and it would represent the heaviest amount of traffic on this weekend in a decade. Only a small portion of these travelers will fly: roughly 9 out of 10 will be in automobiles.

Cheap gas, an improving jobs scene, and pent-up demand after a long and brutally snowy winter in the Midwest and Northeast have been cited as reasons why so many Americans are more than ready to kick off summer with a road trip. The East Coast will be particularly clogged with cars. An estimated 890,000 vehicles will drive Maine Turnpike over the weekend, a 5.2% increase over last year. Nearly 1 million New Jersey residents are expected to travel this weekend—in a state that has a population of just 9 million. “Motorists need to pack their patience along with the sunscreen as they set out for the Jersey Shore,” a spokesperson from AAA Mid-Atlantic cautioned.

Aggressive Police Enforcement
To cope with holiday weekend crowds, police will be turning Miami Beach into a “mini police state,” in the words of the Miami New Times, with road closures, parking bans, barricades, one-way traffic loops, and police checkpoints in popular areas. Around the country, police have stated they will be aggressively enforcing everything from so-called “slow poke” left-lane driving rules to laws mandating the wearing of seatbelts with a national “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

Crackdowns on DUIs will be widespread as well—in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, to name just a few states. In the latter, police may employ “No Refusal” tactics, which allow them to seek a search warrant and draw blood from someone who is suspected of driving under the influence and refuses a breathalyzer test. The same kind of enforcement will be used by police in parts of Texas, where the “No Refusal” process can be applied not only to car drivers, but those behind the wheel of boats as well.

Drunk Drivers, Car Accidents
The main reason for ratcheting up enforcement of DUI laws and other driving regulations on Memorial Day weekend is that, hopefully, it sets the tone for the entire summer season. The holiday weekend starts what’s known as the 100 Deadliest Days on American roads (for teens especially), and the goal is to crack down hard at the beginning to save lives in the long run. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 146 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers during Memorial Day weekend in 2013.

Data from the National Safety Council forecasts that there will be 383 fatalities from traffic accidents over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and car crashes will result in another 46,300 injuries. What’s scary is that historically, the days around the July 4 holiday are even more dangerous for drivers and passengers than Memorial Day.

Texters, Tailgaters, Bikers, New Yorkers
Texting behind the wheel is the behavior most likely to induce road rage from fellow motorists, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Expedia. Tailgaters and left-lane hogs tied for second place in terms of aggravating people on the roads, while New York City came out on top for having the country’s rudest drivers. All of this rage has manifested itself in drivers yelling or using profanity behind the wheel (26% admitted to doing so), and by employing a rude gesture that probably involves a single finger (17% admit to this, while 53% say they’ve been on the receiving end).

Memorial Day is also a traditional time for many biker rallies, which have been known to bring about traffic (and worse) in the past, and which this year may cause locals, police, and motorists to be more on edge than usual given the recent biker shootout that left nine people dead in Waco, Texas. Major motorcycle gatherings are planned this weekend in Washington, D.C., Red River, N.M., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.,, among other places.

Soaring Motel Rates
Hotel rates are up roughly 5% nationally compared to last year. That doesn’t seem like a big deal. But the one segment of the lodging industry favored by road trippers has spiked to an outsized degree. According to AAA, rates at supposedly cheap two-diamond properties are averaging $144 per night, a rise of 16% over last year. That kind of sharp increase may more than offset the money you’re saving thanks to cheap gas.

MONEY Shopping

J.C. Penney Sued for Never Charging Full Price

JCPenney store at the Newport Mall in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Kena Betancur—Getty Images JCPenney store at the Newport Mall in Jersey City, New Jersey

The "original price" is a big fat lie.

J.C. Penney has long been in the business of giving merchandise “fake prices.” That’s how Ron Johnson described the retailer’s pricing strategy when he took over as CEO in 2012, pointing out that less than 1% of store sales were for items at full original price.

After the short-lived Johnson experiment in more transparent, less promotion-driven sales ended in monumental failure, J.C. Penney resorted to its old high-low pricing scheme, in which items were given inflated original prices solely for the purpose of making the inevitable discounts seem more impressive. It’s a classic sales strategy known as “price anchoring,” and J.C. Penney is hardly the only store known to engage in the practice.

Yet J.C. Penney is the one that has been hit with a class-action lawsuit in California federal court for its pricing strategies, a “massive, years-long, pervasive campaign” that has allegedly been tantamount to deceptive and fraudulent advertising. According to Reuters, the lead plaintiff in the suit purchased three blouses at J.C. Penney at a price of $17.99 each—seemingly a good deal in light of the $30 “original” price on the tag. But with a little research, the shopper discovered that the blouses in question were never priced for more than $17.99 during the three months prior to her purchase.

“Price comparisons are not illegal, but it is deceptive if there is no basis for the original price,” said Matthew Zevin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who could number in the hundreds of thousands.

This isn’t the first time a retailer has gotten sued for allegedly having too many sales and promotions—or rather, for never actually selling items at non-discounted prices. In 2012, Jos. A. Bank, the men’s apparel retailer known for seemingly insane “Buy 1, Get 7 Free” promotions, was hit with a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey for allegedly using “misleading, inaccurate and deceptive marketing” to create “a false sense of urgency” among shoppers. Essentially, the retailer was accused of partaking in the same tactic that’s gotten J.C. Penney sued: Showing items with list or “original” prices that are never (or almost never) charged.

The suit against Jos. A. Bank was dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to quantify “the difference between what the regular price actually was and what the discount price should have been,” according to the New Jersey federal judge hearing the case. This doesn’t prove that Jos. A. Bank didn’t engage in the practice; it just means that the plaintiffs could not prove how much of an “ascertainable loss” they suffered as a result of the retailer’s pricing strategies.

In any event, last month Jos. A. Bank pledged it would be moving away from a “hyper aggressive promotional strategy” because it has hurt the brand—and sales and profits by extension. The announcement took place roughly a year after Jos. A. Bank was purchased for $1.8 billion by rival Men’s Wearhouse.

Let’s hope that regardless of the results of any lawsuits, stores get the message that the common practice of listing items at inflated, meaningless original prices is bad for business.

MONEY fees

These Are the Most Hated Fees in America

150520_EM_HatedFees
Ryan J. Lane—iStock

They've managed to narrow the list down to "only" 31 fees.

The website GoBankingRates.com has compiled a rogue’s gallery of the “most expensive, egregious, unexpected and just downright unreasonable charges” confronting American consumers today.

No fewer than 11 of the worst fees named on the list are related to banking. That’s not surprising considering each year we drop $7 billion on basic bank charges for things like failing to meet minimum balance requirements and monthly account maintenance. That figure is tiny compared to the roughly $32 billion consumers pay annually for overdrafts—which, of course, is another hated fee featured on the list.

Behind banking, travel is the category with the second-most hated fees—a total of 10 in all. Common fees for things like changing airline tickets, checking or carrying baggage on flights, renting a car, and flying with your pet are named on the list. Arguably worse are the fees travelers incur through no choice of their own, without any extra service provided, such as the vague “resort fees” added to bills at some hotels and resorts, and the mandatory gratuities charged by many resorts and cruise lines.

On the other hand, some of the fees in the roundup seem easier to accept because there’s clearly some service and value provided. What’s more, while the price of these fees may not be entirely reasonable, it’s easy enough for people to be well aware of them before signing on board. We’re talking about things like homeowner’s association fees and charges for belonging to sororities and fraternities in college.

What fee is the worst of the worst? GoBankingRates doesn’t rank them. Besides, it’s a matter of personal opinion. Obviously, the fees you hate the most are the ones you pay, without much in the way of choice, while getting little to nothing in return.

For what it’s worth, the checked baggage fee was named by our readers as the Most Hated Fee in a vote-off conducted a few years back.

MONEY fashion

New Kind of Disney Cosplay Slightly Less Embarrassing Than Original

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Ever imagine what Sleeping Beauty, Buzz Lightyear, or Dumbo would wear if they were real people?

This week, the Orlando Sentinel reported on “Disneybounding,” a growing dress-up trend that some will think is a super fun hoot, while others will perceive it as a disturbing sign of the coming apocalypse.

To be a Disneybounder, you dress up in regular clothes to achieve a look inspired by a Disney character. The look “falls somewhere between a character T-shirt and an elaborate costume,” the Sentinel explained.

According to the Disneybound Tumblr (“Where Disney nerds and fashion geeks collide”), which was created three years ago by a woman named Leslie Kay and is credited with creating the trend out of nowhere, Disneybounding can be summed up this way: “Using items you can find in your own closet or local mall, create the looks outside of costumed or cosplay looks, which represent your favorite Disney character, while having fun with fashion!”

For instance, instead of dressing up in a head-to-toe Little Mermaid costume with a tail and all, you might wear green jeans or a skirt and a purple top, to create a vaguely Ariel-like look. A Disneybound Mrs. Jumbo outfit, inspired by Dumbo’s mom, might consist of gray skorts, a pink blouse, and a light blue sweater.

The most obvious place to go Disneybounding in character-inspired attire is, of course, one of the Disney theme parks. Yet if these fans love Disney so much, why aren’t they just wearing full character costumes?

Beyond the obvious—it’s somewhat ridiculous for adults to dress in costumes when it’s not Halloween (and perhaps even when it is Halloween)—Disney parks actually don’t allow adults to wear masks or dress up in Disney costumes. Included on the official list of attire that’s not appropriate at Disney World are “Adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character.” Presumably, without such a policy, theme park guests could be confused as to whether that guy in a costume is a Disney employee or just some random dude from Des Moines who enjoys dressing up as Cruella De Vil.

While Disney frowns upon adult guests wearing costumes at theme parks, the company has embraced Disneybounding. Last summer, the official Disney blog created a quiz meant to steer you toward the character whose look you should emulate in Disneybound attire. After selecting your favorite Disney song, overall style, Disney snack food, favorite retail brand, and so on, an algorithm spits out that you should try to dress like Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid, Olaf from Frozen, or whoever.

Disney also created a similar quiz to help high school girls choose which Disney character should be the inspiration for their look at the prom. Mrs. Jumbo is not one of the options.

MONEY

Top 10 Things That Got Great Free Publicity from David Letterman

Everett Collection

He's done quite a few Top Ten lists. So we've done one in his honor.

With David Letterman’s final show set to air this week, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate an oddball assortment of products, places, businesses, and brands that somehow benefited from their association with Letterman and his program—even when Dave was making fun of them.

10. Alka-Seltzer
In one classic bit from 1984, Dave put on a tank with compressed air and a suit covered in 3,400 Alka-Seltzer tablets. He was then hoisted into the air and dipped head-deep into a glass enclosure filled with water, which bubbled and fizzed excitedly. It was pure stupidity—and made for great, memorable TV. Letterman has also done silly tricks wearing suits covered in sponges and Velcro. He frequently warned the audience, “Don’t try this at home.”

9. Ham, Meats in General
The #1 item on David Letterman’s very first Top Ten List—”Top Ten Words That Almost Rhyme With ‘Peas,'” recorded in 1985—was “Meats.” It’s fitting because Letterman shows seem to have quite the love affair with meat, ham in particular. Dave has worn a meat helmet to entice a hawk into landing on his head, and there were meat-themed Top Ten lists and a running “Know Your Cuts of Meat” segment on the show. Canned hams were often awarded to audience members as prizes of quizzes and other contests.

8. Cabin Boy
Though some insist it’s a cult classic, the 1994 film Cabin Boy received horrible reviews and was a flop at the box office. It would have likely been forgotten entirely were it not for a short cameo by David Letterman, who played the “Old Salt in the Fishing Village” and tried to sell a monkey to the title character, played by longstanding Letterman pal, writer and actor Chris Elliott. Most memorably, Letterman mocked his performance in a funny bit from the 1995 Oscars, which he hosted.

7. Tahlequah, Oklahoma
It was big news in 1992 when the Letterman show relocated its home office way from Lebanon, Pa., to Tahlequah. The town put up a highway billboard and hosted a “Stupid Parade” in celebration. It mattered little that there is no Letterman home office outside of its New York City studio. Every city that’s served as the fictional home office—there have been 11 in total, including Milwaukee; Scottsdale; Oneonta, N.Y.; and current home office site Wahoo, Nebraska—has embraced the totally made-up honor.

6. Hello Deli
Tourists from all over know Manhattan’s Hello Deli and owner Rupert Jee from their regular appearances on the Letterman show, which is taped next door. Customers can also order sandwiches like the “Alan Kalter” (the Late Show’s announcer), the “Late Show Research,” and simply the “Letterman.” Here is Rupert Jee singing “Let It Go” from Frozen, the day after it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song:

5. Delaware
If there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then Delaware should be grateful for all the attention paid to it by David Letterman over the years. The state has served as a go-to punchline, featured in a mocking segment called “Get to Know Delaware” and on multiple Top Ten lists. Sample, from a Top Ten list of questions from the U.S. Citizenship Exam: “If all the good states are full, would you be willing to live in Delaware?”

4. Best Bagger Championship
Year after year, the winner of the National Grocery Association’s Best Bagger Championship won a $10,000 check plus, in all likelihood, the opportunity to compete in a grocery bagging challenge against David Letterman on his show. Here’s the 2015 champ’s appearance:

3. Indianapolis 500
OK, so this is one of the most famous Formula One auto races on the planet. So it isn’t exactly hurting for publicity. Still, the race, and Formula One racing in general, have benefited from an extra image boost thanks to the longstanding association with Indianapolis native Letterman, who was a goofball reporter at the Indy 500 in 1971 when he was just 24 years old and who has been a part owner of a race team for a decade. Countless racecar drivers have been on Letterman’s shows over the years as well.

2. Ball State University
A self-professed slacker as a student, Letterman has periodically plugged his Muncie, Ind., alma mater, Ball State, where a building is now named after the talk show host. Letterman credits one of his professors, Darren Wible, with changing his life and setting him on the path to great success. Letterman even managed to bring Oprah Winfrey to the Ball State campus for an interview/lecture in front an audience that lasted nearly two hours. Here is Letterman praising one of his alma mater’s recent successes:

1. Adidas
David Letterman will never be memorialized as a fashion icon. He may, however, be remembered as a guy who had quite a unique look. “His hair resembled an ill-fitting vintage leather motorcycle helmet. His front teeth had a massive gap that looked almost painted-on as a joke,” Conan O’Brien, another talk show host who doesn’t look the part of the traditional broadcaster, wrote recently for Entertainment Weekly. Perhaps most memorably, “He was wearing the requisite broadcaster’s tie, but khaki pants and Adidas sneakers.”

MONEY kids

Here’s Your Excuse to Stop Buying More Stuff for Your Kid

Getty Images/Farouk Batiche

Worldwide, kids are pretty darn happy with what they have.

The welcome if not surprising news presented in a global survey is that kids are happier and less worried about money than grownups. And despite how often parents might hear about children needing new toys, video games, electronics, and clothes, the vast majority of kids worldwide report being plenty satisfied with what they have.

According to the new International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, which polled kids ages 8, 10, and 12 in 15 countries, fewer than 1 out of 20 kids report low satisfaction with the things they have. Meanwhile, children in some of the poorer countries in the survey—Algeria, Turkey—worry a lot less about money than one might presume. (The United States was not included in this year’s survey.)

“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Norway’s Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the survey’s lead researcher, told Quartz. That’s good to hear, of course, especially in light of what seems to be the increasingly stressful, high-pressure environment that kids grow up in nowadays.

Yet optimism and the refreshing idea that kids worldwide still get to enjoy fairly worry-free childhoods don’t explain all of the study’s findings, some of which are rather contradictory. For instance, children in Spain—one of the wealthier countries in the study, based on GDP—are among those most satisfied with what they have, yet they rank #2 (behind Colombia) in likelihood of reporting they “often” or “always” worry about how much money their family has.

Algeria also presents a confusing picture. “Despite Algeria’s very low GDP, children reported comparatively low levels of worry about how much money their family had,” the report states. At the same time, however, Algerian children were near the bottom in terms of being satisfied with their material goods and possessions. Only Ethiopian kids were more dissatisfied with what they have.

The researchers theorize that Algeria’s “socialist-egalitarian political regime” may have something to do with the surprisingly low level of children worrying about money. “Many effects of this–such as free education and educational resources, financial aid for poor parents at the start of the school year, free school meals for many children in primary education–remain, which may result in poor children judging their own situation to be similar to that of their peers, and therefore not feeling that their family is worse off,” the report states.

In other words, kids in Algeria may be less likely to be aware of who is poor and who is more well-off. With less obvious means of everyday comparison among children and families, there could be less of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.

The researchers admit that there were some “diverging patterns of findings,” and that “it may be important to include a wider range of such questions in future surveys in order to fully capture children’s evaluations.” Based on the data we have, though, it seems like there is no clear correlation between material goods and happiness: Richer countries aren’t necessarily home to happier, more worry-free kids either.

MONEY Shopping

Why Stores Can’t Sell You Cheaper Contact Lenses

Getty Images/Adam Gault

Can you say: price fixing?

Costco and online sellers like 1-800 CONTACTS would love to sell you cheaper contact lenses. But in recent years, the country’s biggest contact manufacturers have instituted minimum prices for their products that make it impossible for retailers to offer them at lower price points.

In testimony before Congress last summer, the Consumers Union declared such policies “uncompetitive” and tantamount to price fixing: “Consumers are denied more affordable alternatives. They pay more than they need to, and sellers who would like to make those affordable alternatives available are denied the opportunity to do so.”

The manufacturers are taking advantage of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established that it was legal for price floors to be set in certain situations. The one stipulation is that the manufacturers must not be “actively coordinating prices among themselves or with retailers,” as Marketplace put it. It’s impossible to prove that Johnson & Johnson, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, and other big sellers are conspiring to set prices, yet all have instituted unilateral pricing, which means that retailers aren’t allowed to sell their products below a certain price. The net result is that stores and online sellers can’t discount the vast majority of name-brand contact lenses on the market, so there’s no point in consumers shopping around.

Earlier this year, the Utah legislature passed a bill that would prohibit the setting of price floors on contact lenses. It’s worth noting that online discounter 1800CONTACTS.com backed the bill and just so happens to be headquartered in Utah.

The big contact lens companies followed by suing Utah in federal court, and the latest news is that an appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, blocking it from being enforced. Essentially, the court has said that the contact lens manufacturers are within their legal rights to mandate a price floor.

Novartis, owner of the Alcon brand, has argued that price minimums are necessary to combat “showrooming,” the nickname for the practice in which consumers scope out prices from one seller—often, the optometrist’s office where they receive prescriptions—before shopping around and getting the product at a cheaper price elsewhere, typically online. “Eye-care professionals incur the cost of studying and appraising the new technology, but online and big-box retailers do not,” the company wrote in defense of price floors.

Costco, which says the price minimums have forced it to charge prices that are 20% higher than they would have for some contacts, warned that if eye care professionals don’t have to compete on price, they will “leverage their control over prescriptions and brand selection to also control and monopolize contact lens sales.” The result wouldn’t be bad just for Costco; it would negatively affect consumers too.

For the time being at least, the discount retailers—and by extension, consumers seeking contacts at lower prices—are on the losing side of the battle.

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