MONEY Sports

Crazy Long Shot March Madness Bet Looks to Pay Off Big Time

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David Richard—AP Kentucky's Andrew Harrison is congratulated by Willie Cauley-Stein (15) during the second half of a college basketball game against West Virginia in the NCAA men's tournament regional semifinals.

Before the college basketball season started, at least 39 people placed a bet at a Nevada sportsbook with 50:1 odds. It's looking like quite a brilliant wager right about now.

The bet in question is that the University of Kentucky would go undefeated through the entire season and win the national championship in the NCAA March Madness tournament. After Kentucky completely dominated West Virginia in a 78-39 rout on Thursday night, the Wildcats stand at 37-0. All they need is three more wins and they’ll go down in history as the best college basketball team ever, or at least the one that had the best season ever.

There have been teams that have run the table in the past, with undefeated regular seasons followed by national championships. But it hasn’t happened in decades. The last squad to do so was Indiana in 1975-1976. Teams played fewer games back then—Indiana’s record was 32-0, including the tournament—so Kentucky has already won more games this year. The great John Wooden-coached UCLA Bruins teams of the 1960s and ’70s had four undefeated seasons and won an amazing 88 games in a row, but again, times have changed and teams play more games nowadays.

Because the season is so long, and because no team has gone undefeated in nearly four decades, gamblers were initially given long-shot odds that Kentucky could accomplish the feat in 2014-2015. Last summer, the William Hill sportsbook in Nevada began accepting bets that would pay off 50-to-1 if Kentucky won every game, including the tournament. According to ESPN, at least 39 people took those odds, including one $500 bet that will pay off to the tune of $25,000 if Kentucky wins its final three games.

Another gambler bet $2,550 on Kentucky to zip through this year with zero losses, but that wager was placed in September, when the odds had shrunk to 20:1. That bet will pay off $51,000 if Kentucky comes through.

Kentucky has had some close games this year, including back-to-back overtime games in January, against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. So it’s indeed possible that John Calipari’s super-talented squad could lose. But as NCAA March Madness entered the Sweet Sixteen this week, sportsbooks listed Kentucky as the overwhelming favorite, with 1:1 odds. Arizona was a distant second at 13:2, and all the other contenders were even bigger long shots. In other words, casinos have been practically begging gamblers to bet on any team other than Kentucky.

Yet even if Kentucky does run the table, there are those who will argue—fairly convincingly—that this year’s team is not the best ever. Not by a long shot. In fact, Vegas oddsmakers say that the 2014-15 Kentucky team would be the underdog in theoretical matchups against several notable college squads from the past, including the undefeated 1976 Indiana team, UNLV circa 1991 with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony, and even the 2012 Kentucky team that won the national championship and had six players drafted into the NBA—but that didn’t go undefeated for the entire season.

MONEY deals

Here’s What the World’s Largest Coupon Looks Like

Fast food icon, Jack, of Jack in the Box, makes a rare public appearance to celebrate capturing the Guinness World Record title for the world's Largest coupon on Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 in Los Angeles. Fans can get their own Buttery Jack Burgers at their local Jack in the Box by sharing shots of the #WorldsLargestCoupon.
Jordan Strauss—Invision via AP Fast food icon, Jack, of Jack in the Box, makes a rare public appearance to celebrate capturing the Guinness World Record title for the world's Largest coupon on Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 in Los Angeles.

At 80 feet tall and 450 times the size of a regular coupon, it's kind of a big deal. And yes, it's a valid coupon—good for a free burger!

This week, the fast food restaurant chain Jack in the Box unveiled a huge—quite literally—new offer. The company needed more than a dozen people to carry the freshly made coupon, which measures 80 feet tall by 25 feet wide, down the streets of Los Angeles. It was then draped down the side of the W Hotel in Hollywood, where it could be admired as the “Largest Coupon” according to Guinness World Records.

The coupon is valid through April 1 for a buy-one, get-one-free Buttery Jack Burger, which features “garlic herb butter melted on top of a new, quarter-pound signature beef patty, tucked inside Jack’s gourmet signature bun.”

You might be thinking it’s a bit impractical to bring an eight-story-high coupon into a restaurant. And you’d be right. But all you need is a picture of the coupon on your phone to get your free burger, and it’s easy enough to locate a photo on social media with the hashtag #WorldsLargestCoupon.

MONEY Millennials

5 Big Myths About What Millennials Truly Want

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Jamie Grill—Getty Images

We've heard a ton about millennials—where they want to live, what they love to eat, what's most important to them in the workplace, and so on. It's time to set the record straight.

In some ways, it’s foolish to make broad generalizations about any generation, each of which numbers into the tens of millions of people. Nonetheless, demographers, marketers, and we in the media can’t help but want to draw conclusions about their motivations and desires. That’s especially true when it comes to the young people who conveniently came of age with the Internet and smartphones, making it possible for their preferences and personal data to be tracked from birth.

Naturally, everyone focuses on what makes each generation different. Sometimes those differences, however slight, come to be viewed as hugely significant breaks from the past when in fact they’re pretty minor. There’s a tendency to oversimplify and paint with an exceptionally broad brush for the sake of catchy headlines and easily digestible info nuggets. (Again, we’re as guilty of this as anyone, admittedly.) The result is that widely accepted truisms are actually myths—or at least only tell part of the story. Upon closer inspection, there’s good reason to call these five generalizations about millennials into question.

1. Millennials Don’t Like Fast Food
One of the most accepted truisms about millennials—easily the most overexamined generation in history—is that they are foodies who love going out to eat. And when they eat, they want it to be special, with fresh, high-quality ingredients that can be mixed and matched according to their whims, not some stale, processed cookie-cutter package served to the masses.

In other words, millennials are huge fans of Chipotle and fast-casual restaurants, while they wouldn’t be caught dead in McDonald’s. In fact, the disdain of millennials for McDonald’s is frequently noted as a prime reason the fast food giant has struggled mightily of late.

But guess what? Even though survey data shows that millennials prefer fast-casual over fast food, and even though some stats indicate millennial visits to fast food establishments are falling, younger consumers are far more likely to dine at McDonald’s than at Chipotle, Panera Bread, and other fast-casual restaurants.

Last summer, a Wall Street Journal article pointed out that millennials are increasingly turning away from McDonald’s in favor of fast casual. Yet a chart in the story shows that roughly 75% of millennials said they go to McDonald’s at least once a month, while only 20% to 25% of millennials visit a fast-casual restaurant of any kind that frequently. Similarly, data collected by Morgan Stanley cited in a recent Business Insider post shows that millennials not only eat at McDonald’s more than at any other restaurant chain, but that they’re just as likely to go to McDonald’s as Gen Xers and more likely to dine there than Boomers.

At the same time, McDonald’s was the restaurant brand that millennials would least likely recommend publicly to others, with Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and Jack in the Box also coming in toward the bottom in the spectrum of what millennials find worthy of their endorsements. What it looks like, then, is that millennials are fast food regulars, but they’re ashamed about it.

2. Millennials Want to Live in Cities, Not Suburbs
Another broad generalization about millennials is that they prefer urban settings, where they can walk or take the bus, subway, or Uber virtually anywhere they need to go. There are some facts to back this up. According to an October 2014 White House report, millennials were the most likely group to move into mid-size cities, and the number of young people living in such cities was 5% higher compared with 30 years prior. The apparent preference for cities has been pointed to as a reason why Costco isn’t big with millennials, who seem to not live close enough to the warehouse retailer’s suburban locations to justify a membership, nor do their apartments have space for Costco’s bulk-size merchandise.

But just because the percentage of young people living in cities has been inching up doesn’t mean that the majority actually steer clear of the suburbs. Five Thirty Eight recently took a deep dive into Census data, which shows that in 2014 people in their 20s moving out of cities and into suburbs far outnumber those going in the opposite direction. In the long run, the suburbs seem the overwhelming choice for settling down, with roughly two-thirds of millennial home buyers saying they prefer suburban locations and only 10% wanting to be in the city. It’s true that a smaller percentage of 20-somethings are moving to the suburbs compared with generations ago, but much of the reason why this is so is that millennials are getting married and having children later in life.

3. Millennials Don’t Want to Own Homes
Closely related to the theory that millennials like cities over suburbs is the idea that they like renting rather than owning. That goes not only for where they live, but also what they wear, what they drive, and more.

In terms of homes, the trope that millennials simply aren’t into ownership just isn’t true. Surveys show that the vast majority of millennials do, in fact, want to own homes. It’s just that, at least up until recently, monster student loans, a bad jobs market, the memory of their parents’ home being underwater, and/or their delayed entry into the world of marriage and parenthood have made homeownership less attractive or impossible.

What’s more, circumstances appear to be changing, and many more millennials are actually becoming homeowners. Bloomberg News noted that millennials constituted 32% of home buyers in 2014, up from 28% from 2012, making them the largest demographic in the market. Soaring rents, among other factors, have nudged millennials into seeing ownership as a more sensible option. Surveys show that 5.2 million renters expect to a buy a home this year, up from 4.2 million in 2014. Since young people represent a high portion of renters, we can expect the idea that millennials don’t want to own homes to be increasingly exposed as a myth.

4. Millennials Hate Cars
Cars are just not cool. They’re bad for the environment, they cost too much, and, in an era when Uber is readily available and socializing online is arguably more important than socializing in person, having a car doesn’t seem all that necessary. Certainly not as necessary as a smartphone or broadband. Indeed, the idea that millennials could possibly not care about owning cars is one that has puzzled automakers, especially those in the car-crazed Baby Boom generation.

In many cases, the car industry has disregarded the concept, claiming that the economy rather than consumer interest is why fewer young people were buying cars. Whatever the case, the numbers show that the majority of millennials will own cars, regardless of whether they love them as much as their parents did when they were in their teens and 20s. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Gen Y Consumer Study, more than three-quarters of millennials plan on purchasing or leasing a car over the next five years, and 64% of millennials say they “love” their cars. Sales figures are reflecting the sentiment; in the first half of 2014, millennials outnumbered Gen X for the first time ever in terms of new car purchases.

5. Millennials Have a Different Attitude About Work
As millennials entered the workforce and have become a more common presence in offices around the world, much attention has been focused on the unorthodox things that young people supposedly care more about than their older colleagues. Millennials, surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown, want to be able to wear jeans and have flexible work hours to greater degrees than Gen X and Boomers. Young people also want to be more collaborative, demand more feedback, and are less motivated by money than older generations.

That’s the broad take on what motivates millennial workers anyway. An IBM study on the matter suggests otherwise, however. “We discovered that Millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do,” researchers state. There may be different preferences on smaller issues—like, say, the importance of being able to dress casually on the job—but when it comes to overarching work goals achieved in the long run, millennials are nearly identical to their more experienced colleagues: “They want financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people.”

What’s more, IBM researchers say, millennials do indeed care about making more money at work, and that, despite their reputation as frequent “job hoppers,” they jump ship to other companies about as often as other generations, and their motivations are essentially the same: “When Millennials change jobs, they do so for much the same reasons as Gen X and Baby Boomers. More than 40 percent of all respondents say they would change jobs for more money and a more innovative environment.”

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Amazing Facts About Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup

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Alamy—Alamy

The merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz combines hundreds of well-known brands into one monster Big Food conglomerate—none more notable than the iconic products Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup.

When you heard about the new merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co., chances are you thought about each brand’s best-known product—Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup, respectively. Well, here are a handful of things you might not know about these two ubiquitous items, which have been mainstays in American pantries and supermarket shelves for decades.

Heinz sells more single-serve ketchup packets annually than there are people on earth. The Heinz Company’s trivia page reveals that it sells 11 billion single-serve ketchup packs per year. “That’s 2 packets for every person on earth,” the site explains. The company also sells 650 million bottles of Heinz Ketchup annually in 140 countries, and uses two million tons of processed tomatoes per year, more than any other business in the world. (It uses tomatoes not only for ketchup, but in tomato sauces and other products.) Oh, and the famous “57 Varieties” on ketchup bottles? It means nothing. Henry Heinz thought it was a lucky number, so he used it in advertising and put it on the company’s products, which now number into the thousands.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has always been dirt cheap. Kraft began selling boxes of macaroni and cheese in 1937, during the heart of the Great Depression, and the main sales pitch was that you could feed a family of four for 19¢. Consumers bought eight million boxes in the first year, and 50 million boxes were sold during World War II, when meat and dairy were in short supply, and when one food ration stamp was valid for two boxes of mac ‘n cheese. At Ranked, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is currently listed at #3 among voters weighing in on “The Crap You Eat in College, Ranked” (after pizza and Ramen noodles), in which this is the criteria: “Must be cheap, fast and easy. Bonus points for gross.” It’s also been described as “One of America’s Favorite Drunk Foods.”

The fastest recorded time for eating each is about the same. The unofficial record for downing a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (once it’s cooked and mixed, of course), is 33.8 seconds, while the Guinness world record for drinking a full bottle of ketchup is only slightly quicker, at 32.37 seconds.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is sold in at least 50 varieties. The company’s current product list shows at least 50 macaroni and cheese varieties sold in stores, including 18 different flavors that come in the classic blue box format, including SpongeBob and Star Wars shapes, Garlic & Herb Alfredo, Three Cheese Jalapeno, and Cheddar Explosion. That’s just in the U.S., mind you. Different products are sold in other countries, or at least they’re sold under different names, as in Canada where macaroni and cheese is marketed as Kraft Dinner. Speaking of which …

Canadians love both iconic products—especially together. Among the thoughts that the beloved Canadian band Barenaked Ladies had when creating a certain crowd-favorite song about striking it rich:

If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner
But we would eat Kraft Dinner
Of course we would, we’d just eat more

And what goes with Kraft Dinner? That’s right: ketchup. In the song, the band jokes that if and when they have big bucks they’ll “buy really expensive ketchups… That’s right, all the fanciest Dijon ketchups.” But everyone knows the ketchup of choice up north, and all over the world for that matter, is Heinz.

The classic (Canadian) comedy troupe “Kids in the Hall” also played up the curious food combo in the sketch below, in which a pair of poor street performers are rewarded for their dedication to macaroni and cheese and ketchup with several years’ supply of both:

One exasperated Canadian writer even declared Kraft Dinner “our de facto national dish” a few years back because it is so popular in the country. Finally, today, in light of the Big Food merger, the Canadian press was compelled to point out that many people “like Heinz ketchup with their Kraft Dinner.” So the deal especially has some natural synergy to it north of the border.

MONEY Food & Drink

10 Cult-Favorite Foods Brought Back from the Dead by Popular Demand

Don't give up hope if some heartless corporate type decides to kill off your favorite soda, cereal, or fast food indulgence. It'll surely make a return to the marketplace if popular demand, well, demands it.

When Burger King brought back chicken fries to its menu last summer, the company explained that the decision was made due to a widespread campaign of fast food fanatics clamoring for their return via online petitions and social media. “Guest outcries reached a point where they could no longer be ignored,” reads a BK statement in August, which also noted that chicken fries, which hadn’t been available since 2012, would be back on menus nationally only for a limited time.

Apparently, while the “limited time” window seems to suffice for the Shamrock Shakes, McRibs, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes of the fast food world, a merely temporary return for chicken fries just didn’t cut it. This week, BK announced that the breaded and fried chicken strips were becoming a permanent part of the menu, to the delight of the fanatical tweeting masses.

Not everyone is happy about the return of chicken fries. Among the disappointed are those who are passionate about bringing back some other food or drink item they’ve craved desperately since it disappeared. For instance, the Beefy Crunchy Movement Facebook page, which has over 16,000 likes, voiced disgust that BK listened to its fans by making chicken fries permanent, yet Taco Bell has ignored the passionate calls for the return of the burrito featuring Flamin’ Hot Fritos inside. The Beefy Crunch Burrito was brought back by popular demand in 2013, but it disappeared quickly and hasn’t been seen in nearly two years.

Other Taco Bell fans have demanded the return of the extra-spicy Volcano Menu, while still other fast food customers have focused their passion on bringing back items ranging from McDonald’s hot mustard sauce to KFC Chicken Little sandwiches. Yes, KFC currently has Chicken Littles on the menu, but the supposedly “new and improved” version is quite different from the one sold decades ago, and critics have bashed the new item as little more than a “misappropriation of the Chicken Little’s good name.”

What’s interesting—and quite revelatory about human nature and our most passionate cravings—is that there’s quite a long history of failed healthy fast food items, yet there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement to bring any of them back to menus. Instead, campaigns to bring back beloved food and drink from the dead overwhelmingly lean toward those heavy in salt, sugar, grease, calories, and caffeine. Here’s a list of cult favorites that disappeared for a while and recently resurfaced after the people have spoken.

  • Burger King Chicken Fries

    Burger King Chicken Fries
    Burger King

    The same week that BK announced the return of chicken fries, word also spread that it was significantly scaling back availability of its once-hyped low-calorie French fries dubbed Satisfries. This juxtaposition seems to get to the heart of why consumers head to fast food establishments in the first place.

  • French Toast Crunch Cereal

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    Amid plummeting cereal sales, General Mills recently decided that bringing back French Toast Crunch would be a way to boost business. “We have been overwhelmed by the consumer conversations, requests and passion for the cereal to come back,” a company statement explained of French Toast Crunch, which was sold from 1995 to 2006, and has been back on store shelves as of January. General Mills also periodically plays the nostalgia card by offering Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and other “spooky” cereals around Halloween, sometimes with retro-look packaging.

  • SURGE Soda

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    AP—AP

    Coca-Cola said that last fall it brought back SURGE, a Mountain Dew-like soda popular in the ’90s, due to a “passionate and persistent community of brand loyalists who have been lobbying … to bring back their favorite drink.” A SURGE Movement Facebook page had 129,000 likes at the time, and it’s now pushed to over 215,000 likes. The initial batch of rereleased SURGE sold out almost immediately.

  • Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger

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    Neilson Barnard—Getty Images for Wendy's

    The “it” fast food item of 2013 was undeniably the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s, which like most new chain restaurant menu products was first introduced as a limited-time purchase. It wasn’t gone for long, however. “You said ‘bring it back.’ So we did,” Wendy’s tweeted to the world last summer, less than a year after the 680-calorie Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger disappeared from menus. “Then you said keep it on the menu.” Indeed, it’s now part of Wendy’s permanent menu.

  • Chocodiles

    Twinkies Chocodile
    Hostess

    At one point, a box of chocolate-covered Twinkies known as Chocodiles was selling for $90 on eBay. That alone should tell you how badly consumers were jonesing for the oversugared sweet that hadn’t been widely available for years. It also explains why the manufacturer, Hostess, brought Chocodiles back last summer. “In the past Chocodiles seemed to be shrouded as much in mystery as in chocolate, inspiring an obsession among fans that was truly the stuff of legends,” William Toler, president and CEO of Hostess Brands, said at the time. “Now, fanatics will once again be able to satisfy their cravings and a new generation will be able to experience the magic for the first time.”

  • McDonald’s Chicken Selects

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    Bloomberg—Getty Images

    The recent return of Chicken Selects to McDonald’s menus has been heralded as a potential savior for the fast food giant, which has been suffering from lackluster sales for years. “Although they are back by popular demand, they will only be available for a limited time,” McDonald’s warned. Alas, the return of Chicken Selects was not combined with the national reappearance of what many consider the perfect dipping sauce, hot mustard.

  • Pepsi Made With Real Sugar

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    Alamy—Alamy

    Last summer, PepsiCo rolled out three flavors of Pepsi (regular, vanilla, cherry) sweetened with real sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. In the past the company has also made and marketed “throwback” versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, which use real sugar and feature old-school logos on cans, and it recently introduced another soda with real sugar, DEWShine. Have the masses actually been begging for Pepsi and Mountain Dew made with real sugar? It’s not clear they have. But Mexican Coke has been a cult favorite among hipsters for years, supposedly because it uses real cane sugar.

  • Tim Hortons Chocolate Eclair

    Tim Horton's Chocolate eclair
    courtesy of Tim Horton's

    The Canadian donut-and-coffee chain asked customers which “classic” menu item of yore they’d like to see return in 2014 to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, and the top vote-getter, with 40%, was chocolate éclair. The éclair won out even though one Toronto Star reviewer called the whipped cream “fake and disgustingly sweet.”

  • Olive Garden Braised Beef and Tortelloni

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    courtesy of Olive Garden

    Casual sit-down dining chains have steadily been losing business to fast-casual superstars like Chipotle and Panera Bread. So when a critical mass of Olive Garden customers mounted a social rallying cry to put the braised beef and tortelloni entrée back on menus, the company listened. It returned to Olive Garden last spring, to the rejoicing of many on the restaurant brand’s Facebook page.

  • Miller Lite (Packaging)

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    Scott Boehm—AP

    Miller Lite never went away. Like many macro brews, Lite sales have dropped steadily, coinciding with the rise of craft beer. But Lite has never been taken off the market. What’s it doing in this list then? One thing about Miller Lite has been brought back from the past—for about a year now it’s been sold in vintage-looking cans featuring the original logo—and the old-school approach has yielded greatly improved sales. Another old-school beer, Coors Banquet, has similarly been able to drum up sales because of it’s been packaged in throwback “stubby” bottles that some drinkers can’t seem to resist.

MONEY Advertising

At Last, You Can Buy Wallpaper and Sheets with Big Macs on Them

Big Mac sheet set
courtesy of BigMacShop.se While visions of hamburgers dance in your head...

Call it fast (food) fashion. McDonald's just launched a home goods and apparel collection featuring oversized Big Macs on sheets, thermal underwear, wallpaper—even pet clothing.

Perhaps even stranger than the existence of the new Big Mac Shop collection is the fact that sales are currently limited to one country: Sweden.

The collection was introduced on Tuesday at a “McWalk” fashion show in Stockholm. The range of products includes Big Mac bedding, Big Mac thermal underwear, and Big Mac wallpaper, priced at the equivalent of about $47, $58, and $54, respectively. All items feature the same picture-perfect image of a Big Mac that you only see in ads—never in the restaurant when you buy one—repeated hypnotically over and over.

Yes, this has all the makings of an April Fools gag. But it’s not April 1 yet. And based on the reporting of AdAge and AdWeek, among others, these are indeed actual products that are actually for sale, in Sweden at least. (Alas, we tried to make a purchase on the site but were shot down with the message that delivery was not available to the U.S.)

AdWeek clarified that while the Big Mac collection wasn’t a joke, it was “part of a global day of McDonald’s hijinks” called imlovinit24 that took place earlier this week. The campaign called for 24 marketing stunts in 24 cities around the world, including a huge Big Mac jigsaw puzzle in Madrid and a tollbooth in Manila that dispensed free McDonald’s food to drivers. Profits from Big Mac Shop sales will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

At last check, bedding, thermals, and wallpaper from the collection were still available to interested Swedes, but it appears as if the collection’s rubber boots, raincoats, and dog clothing are already sold out.

MONEY Food & Drink

Self-Serve Craft Beer Is Coming, and It Might Even Save You Money

DraftServ beer machine, Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rob Carr—Getty Images DraftServ beer machine, Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A beer-pouring innovation is spreading to bars, restaurants, and sports venues, allowing beer drinkers to handle the taps themselves, and to pour—and pay for—exactly the amount of brew they want.

Beer drinkers, rejoice. The tyranny of being restricted to ordering brews in 12 oz., pint, or perhaps yard sizes is coming to an end. So is the necessity of actually having to speak to a bartender and ask him to do you the favor of filling your glass.

A “craft casual hot dog concept” chain based in California called Dog Haus will soon have self-service beer stations available to customers in two locations. Pour-your-own, pay-by-the-ounce beer using a technology called iPourIt is expected to be an option in the Santa Ana restaurant by the end of the month, with the Dog Haus in Fullerton coming on board by early summer.

The station will feature interactive touch screens where customers will be able to choose among what’s on tap from small SoCal brewers such as Cismontane, Noble Ale Works, and The Bruery. The way it works with the iPourIt system is that—after showing ID to prove they’re at least 21, of course—customers preload money on a card used to purchase beer they pour themselves. Prices are listed by the ounce rather than the glass, so patrons only pay for exactly the amount they want. “This system gives customers the opportunity to customize their drinking experience whether that means pouring a number of 1oz samplers or filling a 16oz pint to wash down their dog,” a Dog Haus press release stated.

“Now we’re able to take the beer and put it in the outside dining room, much like people have been doing for years with sodas,” Dog Haus cofounder Quasim Riaz explained to QSRMagazine.com. There are restrictions on how quickly you can pour and throw back your brew, however. “We’re not going to let someone walk up and just order $100 of beer,” Riaz said. “That’s not at all how the system works.”

Exact pricing and beer-pouring limits for Dog Haus aren’t released yet. A similar concept of self-serve beer stations made its debut at Target Field in Minnesota around the time the stadium hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last July. Those machines, from a company called DraftServ, featured Budweiser and Bud Light for 38¢ per ounce and fancier Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brews from the likes of Goose Island for 40¢ per ounce. (Respectively, that adds up to $6.08 and $6.40 for a 16oz self-poured pint, which actually seems reasonable for the ballpark.) Customers load money onto cards in advance to pay for their brew, and they’re limited to pouring no more than 48 ounces every 15 minutes.

Lambeau Field and Miller Park, both in Wisconsin, introduced self-serve beer stations with Miller brews on tap last fall as well.

Meanwhile, iPourIt seems to be the self-service system of choice for bars, restaurants, and festivals featuring independent craft brews. The traveling Beer Haven mini-festival is making the rounds at larger events, such as the ongoing Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, and it includes an iPourIt station where drinkers load money in $20 increments onto wristbands used to pay for beer by the ounce. “When you’re done, you’ll get a printout of every beer you drank, perfect to save as a tasting-notes cheat sheet,” the Miami New Times reported. A new bar opening this summer in Denver called First Draft will also feature craft beers via the iPourIt system, making it the city’s first eatery with self-serve beer.

Attendees of the 2013 Los Angeles County Fair got an especially early look at iPourIt. At the time, prices were set around 62¢ for 20 different craft brews on tap, for a pricey $10 or so per pint. But as an iPourIt rep explains in the video below, paying by the ounce can be cheaper: “You can go and taste a little bit and not get charged for a whole beer.”

As for why restaurants, bars, and ballparks are intrigued with self-serve beer, one NBC Sports reporter succinctly summed up two of the biggest reasons while testing out the technology at Target Field last summer:

I figure the twin-draw of this technology for the ballparks is that (a) in the long run they will save money on having to pay people to draw beer for customers; and (b) they figure people will buy more beer thanks to the novelty of it.

As if people need an excuse to drink more beer at the ball game.

MONEY Shopping

Why Target Just Gave You a Year to Return Stuff

Exterior of Target store
Richard Clement—ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy

Target's newly generous return policy goes against industry trends, and it's inevitable that some shoppers will go overboard and abuse it. What is the company thinking?

Last week, Target announced it was extending the return policy on a wide range of merchandise to 365 days, a huge increase compared with the old 90-day return allowance.

The new policy doesn’t apply to all goods purchased at Target. Instead, the one-year window is valid on all 32 Target “owned and exclusive brands”—the stuff you can buy only at Target—including merchandise sold under names such as Archer Foods, C9 Champion, Cherokee, Liz Lange, Mossimo, Nate Berkus, Shaun White, and Wine Cube. The return policy for all items purchased as part of a Target gift registry (for babies, weddings, and such) has also been extended from 90 days to 365 days. And the liberal return period allowance for registry items commences on the day of the event, not the date of purchase.

While certainly more generous compared with most of its competitors, Target’s new return policy is not completely unheard of. “It’s a bit reminiscent of Costco’s liberal return policy,” Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and the founder of Consumerworld.org, which publishes an annual retailer return policy report, said to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It certainly is an unusual move.”

Unusual indeed. During the same week that Target was rolling out its easier-than-ever return policy, Bed Bath & Beyond was following industry trends by making its policy less customer-friendly. As Consumerist.com noted, in the past Bed Bath & Beyond allowed all items purchased at the store to be returned for store credit or a direct exchange indefinitely, with or without a receipt—a “policy that most customers enjoyed and a few abused.” Now, however, when customers bring back items without a receipt, they’ll still be able to get store credit, but there will be a 20% deduction on the amount they receive.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION: Bed Bath & Beyond reached out to us to clarify that its new return policy takes effect on April 20, 2015, and that it “will only affect customers whose purchase cannot be located to process a return, either because the receipt was not provided or because we could not identify the purchase through a query of our transaction records.”]

In recent years, other retailers once renowned for incredibly generous return policies have felt forced to tighten up restrictions due to the abuse by a small percentage of customers. For instance, Bloomingdale’s and REI have ratcheted up return policies, partly because of the extreme behavior of a few rotten shoppers. Some people had the gall to return counterfeit goods purchased on the black market overseas to REI, while others referred to the retailer as “Rental Equipment Inc.” because they used backpacks, tents, and other gear for years and turned them in for new models once they were worn out.

Retailers say they’ve also been compelled to tweak return policies because of a certain subspecies of “returnaholic” shoppers known for engaging in the practice of “wardrobing.” This is the name when you buy something—typically clothing or accessories—wear it to some special event while hiding the fact that the price tag is still attached, and then return it afterward.

At a discussion of Target’s new return policy over at the industry publication Retail Wire, one retail insider noted that the company was all but asking for “wardrobing” and other kinds of abuse to take place:

I expect Target will get flooded with returns as a result of this policy—especially by Millennials who want to rent rather than own. Upscale retailers have had to limit the returns of expensive dresses because women would wear them for one night and return them using the store’s liberal return policy.

So what’s behind Target’s change to a more flexible, potentially abused return policy? The short answer is that shoppers buy more stuff when they know returns are easy.

“People are more likely to purchase impulsively with the assurance of a liberal return policy,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind and a frequent contributor to Money.com. “In stores like Target, impulse purchases are essential to their financial health.”

In the past, Yarrow has explained that a good return policy is critical when a retailer is trying to foster a long-lasting, trusting relationship with the customer. “Psychologically, a liberal return policy unconsciously communicates confidence in the products being sold,” she says. “With trust in businesses at abysmal levels, this is key.”

It’s been a long time since Target was known as “Tarjhay,” the “cheap chic” darling of the industry. By pushing the return policy to new levels of flexibility and generosity, Target is also pushing its reputation upscale. “Better return policies will help to elevate and classy-up the brand image–which is now more on par with Walmart whereas once it was edging up toward Macy’s,” says Yarrow.

Yarrow also points out that the retail experience today is riddled with potential headaches, so one easy way to set your company apart from the pack is by removing annoyances. “Retailers are typically focused on adding positives–what consumers really want is fewer negatives,” she says. “Hassle reduction is the new route to consumer happiness.”

MONEY Airlines

$15 Flights to Europe—and 7 More Ways the Least Trustworthy Airline Has Misled Travelers

Ryanair plane taking off
Ryanair

Ryanair's turnabout this week on cheap transatlantic flights is hardly the only reason travelers might not trust Europe's most infamous high-fee, low-cost airline.

Airlines aren’t exactly renowned as the most honest, upfront, and trustworthy of businesses. Years ago, the industry told travelers that fees for checked baggage were necessary to cover the cost of higher fuel prices. Fuel surcharges were added as well, supposedly for the same reason. Yet even as fuel prices have plummeted, fuel surcharges remain commonplace and baggage fees are pricier and more widespread than ever.

For that matter, travelers have constantly been told that the “debundling” of the airline ticket, in which passengers pay fees a la carte for only the services they want, results in lower prices for strictly the flights themselves. How that concept jibes with the fact that average airfares have soared to all-time highs (over $500) for domestic round trips is rather puzzling.

Among this untrustworthy bunch, European low-fare carrier Ryanair is routinely considered the worst of the pack. Led by brash, headline-grabbing CEO Michael O’Leary—known for calling customers “idiots” for thinking they won’t be hit with fees at the airport, among other things—Ryanair has a long, storied history of bad, misleading behavior.

In the latest incident that turned out to be completely untrue, it was widely reported this week that Ryanair’s board had approved the launch of a series of transatlantic flight routes, with promotional fares from Europe to the U.S. starting for as little as £10 ($15) one way. Within days of the report, however, Ryanair released a statement that completely negated the earlier stories, clarifying that the board “has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so.”

It’s hardly the first time that Ryanair appears to have blatantly misled travelers around the world, likely for purposes including but not limited to generating huge amounts of cheap publicity. Here’s a look at some other sketchy or downright untrue things that Ryanair has claimed over the years.

It’ll sell standing-room-only tickets. In 2012, O’Leary claimed that the airline was close to introducing a standing-room-only section on short-haul flights within Europe. Fares would supposedly start as cheap as £1 ($1.50) for passengers who would stand up rather than require a seat during their travels. The airline later stated that it had no plans for an SRO section on planes.

Seatbelts don’t matter. To make the argument that passengers can fly safely while standing, O’Leary was widely quoted saying, “Seatbelts don’t matter,” and compared the issue to other forms of travel: “You don’t need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don’t need a seatbelt on trains which are travelling at 120 mph and if they crash you’re all dead.” Also, he noted, “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you.” If nothing else, however, pilots and air safety regulators point out that in the event of turbulence passengers are more likely to be injured when not wearing a seatbelt.

It actually flies to Paris. More than a decade ago, a German court ruled that Ryanair must stop claiming that it flies to Dusseldorf when, in fact, the true airport destination is an old military airfield in Weeze, 42 miles away from Dusseldorf. It’s common for low-cost carriers to use secondary airports rather than those nearest to city centers in order to keep costs down, but Ryanair has been dubbed the “ultimate bait-and-switch airline” because its gateway listings are so often misleading. A SkyScanner report about the world’s Most Misleadingly Named Airports focused in particular on popular gateways used by Ryanair including Paris-Vatry (Disney) and Paris (Beauvais), which are, respectively, 93 miles and 55 miles outside of Paris. Despite its billing, the former is also 70 miles from Disneyland Paris.

It’ll charge for in-flight bathrooms. With the hopes of encouraging passengers to use the restroom before boarding planes, Ryanair previously announced plans to charge fees for bathroom breaks on its aircraft, and has also floated the possibility of removing toilets in order to make room for more revenue-generating seats. Understandably, such measures drew an outcry among travelers and regulators, and in retrospect seem like ploys to generate attention.

And in-flight porn. Talk about a marketing stunt to generate attention! Yes, a few years ago O’Leary made headlines by announcing that his latest moneymaking idea would be an app that would charge passengers to watch erotic movies on tablets and smartphones. Gambling and games would be available too, for a charge. “I’m not talking about having it on screens on the back of seats for everyone to see. It would be on handheld devices,” O’Leary said. “Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?”

It considered a “fat tax” too. In 2009, Ryanair surveyed 100,000 passengers on the topic of how to save the airline money, and the top vote getter, receiving the support of 30% of those polled, was an extra fee for overweight passengers. Granted, this wasn’t the most serious or scientific survey: Participants weighed in because by doing so they had a chance to win free flights, and the second most popular money-saving scheme among voters was charging money for toilet paper with Michael O’Leary’s face on it. Remarkably, the South Pacific’s Samoa Air beat Ryanair to the punch by becoming the first airline to charge passengers by the pound in 2013.

It actually changed the way it does business. A year ago, not long after the airline was named as the worst customer service brand in all of Europe and described in the report as “aggressive and hostile towards customers,” Ryanair declared that it was instituting a wide range of service improvements and more customer-friendly policies to overhaul its image.

How is that working out? A (UK) Telegraph report in the fall noted that Ryanair has indeed followed through on several customer-friendly changes, including “a new allowance for a second, small carry-on bag, a reduction of the number of clicks required to book on its new website, allocated seating, several family-friendly innovations and more discreet selling of its food and other ancillary services on board.” Still, Ryanair continues to receive around 80,000 complaints per year, and as one Telegraph reporter put it, even after the “changes” have been made, “The in-flight experience was the same and the inflight food is still a rip off.”

MONEY Advertising

5 Awesome Old-School TV Ads for Financial Service Companies

E.F. Hutton office in Denver, Colorado
Jack Riddle—The Denver Post via Getty Images E.F. Hutton office in Denver, Colorado

Long ago, TV viewers knew that when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen. The return of E.F. Hutton has gotten us nostalgic for hokey financial services commercials that aired decades ago.

What happens when E.F. Hutton talks? What’s the old-fashioned way that Smith Barney makes money? Anyone over 30—OK, over 40—will know the answers to these questions immediately. (They are, respectively: People listen, and they earn it.) And they’ll know them thanks to what seemed like an endless string of TV commercials that aired in the 1970s and ’80s and always included the firms’ essential catchphrases.

The brokerage firm E.F. Hutton was gobbled up in a series of mergers and acquisitions starting in the late ’80s. But the brand E.F. Hutton lives on as a management team that includes the grandson of E.F. Hutton himself, and the company drew attention this week with the launch of Gateway, a go-between connecting financial professionals and customers.

The return of E.F. Hutton on the scene got us geeks at MONEY thinking about the financial service commercials from our youth—which seem shockingly basic and low-budget compared with the ads of today. Here are a handful of vintage ads, starting with a classic one for E.F. Hutton.

 

“When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
To create the idealistic vision of the leisurely life of tanned white rich people, this ad features girls in bikinis and a dashing man who for some reason is lounging by the pool in crisp white pants and a dress shirt. The shirt is unbuttoned and rolled up at the sleeves, though, so we know he’s a cool customer who is off duty. It’s also funny how the scene is presumably at a country club or a fancy hotel, but the pool looks way too small for that to actually be the case. Most likely, they filmed this in somebody’s backyard.

When the guy turns to his equally attractive conversation partner and asks about her broker’s advice, she removes her sunglasses and casually mentions where she gets her financial advice. “Well my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says …” Boom! The whole poolside party scene freezes and goes totally silent because, you know, everyone wants to know what E.F. Hutton says.

“They make money the old-fashioned way: They earn it.”

Ah, John Houseman. The stern-looking actor won an Academy Award for his role in The Paper Chase, but children of the ’70s probably know him—in particular, his amazingly aristocratic voice—from a series of TV commercials for Smith Barney, the wealth management firm that eventually merged with the Travelers Group, and was later acquired by Salomon, and … oh, we lost track.

So about this classic ad: Wearing a stuffy bow tie and a stuffy three-piece suit, John Houseman sits in a stuffy restaurant and employs his stuffiest John Houseman voice, alerting the audience, “Good investments don’t walk up, bite you on the bottom and say, ‘We’re here.'” Perhaps most impressively—beyond using the word “bottom” in a TV ad—Houseman makes both “we’re” and “here” sound as if they’re two-syllable words. The ad ends with Houseman dropping one of the most memorable slogans ever, “Smith Barney. They make money the old-fashioned way: They earn it.”

“Think of your John Hancock man. His business is protecting yours.”
WARNING: Don’t watch this one while on hallucinogenic drugs. In it, some seriously trippy hand-drawn animation—reminiscent of “School House Rock,” only simpler and shakier—shows a hand burst through the ground. The hand quickly morphs into a tree, which turns into a home, then a pill-popping office, and eventually everything transforms into a group of cigar-smoking factory buildings.

The point is supposed to be that John Hancock Insurance can help you and your business no matter how big and complicated it becomes. OK, but can we get a little help making these freaky visions stop!

“Merrill Lynch is bullish on America.”
Not a lot of subtlety here. To show that Merrill Lynch is bullish on America, we see (what else?) a broad swath of bulls running roughshod over a parched American plain. The voiceover is equally dumbed down for the unsophisticated masses: “We see America growing in many different ways … Merrill Lynch has a lot of different ways to put your money to work.”

At one point, as the bulls are closing in, the camera seems to go askew, so apparently the guy behind the lens was being jostled around by the cattle. Anyway, “Merrill Lynch is bullish on America,” so hand over your money and let the firm invest it for you.

Another E.F. Hutton Classic
In this one, the filming of an elaborately costumed Three Musketeers-like sword fight is disturbed when someone in an off-stage conversation just happens to mention who his broker is. Naturally, because it’s E.F. Hutton, and people listen when E.F. Hutton talks, all the wild action comes to an abrupt halt.

Bonus: “Stratton Oakmont: Stability. Integrity. Pride.”
This one never aired on TV. Instead, it’s a fictional ad for the real-world shady firm Stratton Oakmont, made for the opening scene of the 2013 Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio film The Wolf of Wall Street. The commercial shows a lion casually making his way past busy, deal-making employees in a brokerage house, not unlike a 1950s ad for the Dreyfus Fund, in which a lion strolls around Wall Street. We surmise the lion serves as a symbol of strength and “pride.” Given the mayhem that follows in the movie—dwarf tossing at the office, among other things—the ad is not only strange, it’s laughable.

 

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