TIME Autos

Everything You Need to Know About Takata’s Airbag Recall

So far, 7.8 million cars have been recalled from 10 manufacturers over explosive airbags

Even the normal deployment of an airbag is a violent event. It is initiated by a controlled explosion inside an inflator setting off a chemical reaction that forms nitrogen gas that rapidly expands the airbag, propelling it toward your head at speeds up to 200 mph, all within 20 to 30 milliseconds. That’s the kind of violence needed to dissipate the energy being created by a car involved in a crash. But this explosion shouldn’t hurl shards of metal toward the driver’s face and neck, which has happened in some cars with airbags designed by Takata, a major safety system supplier to the auto industry. Here’s everything you need to know about the widespread recall:

How severe is this problem?
There have been five fatalities linked to Takata’s airbags and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has already issued a recall of 7.8 million cars from 10 manufacturers that have the suspect airbags installed. All are relatively old cars, from model years 2000 to 2008.

How can I find out if my car is affected?
You can call the NHTSA’s hotline : 1-888-327-4236. Or you can go to its website. You will need your vehicle’s identification number (VIN), which can usually be found on the front left of the dashboard near the window.

Why are the cars being recalled?
The propellant Takata used to set off the airbag’s inflator—ammonium nitrate—apparently becomes unstable in humid climates and degrades. The explosion triggering the airbag becomes less controllable, even fatally so. That’s why the original recall focused on cars operating in humid areas of the country including Florida, Puerto Rico, and parts of Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico. But now the Department of Transportation and NHTSA have called on Takata to issue a national recall for all cars that have the suspect airbag inflators. NHTSA has also demanded more information from Takata about whether and when it knew about the design and manufacturing flaws, with a due date of Dec. 5. The company said it will comply.

Are these the only dangerous airbags?
Three companies supply most of the world’s airbags; Takata, TRW and Autoliv. Only Takata’s airbags are in question, though, because only Takata used ammonium nitrate as a propellant (and it no longer does).

Why did they use ammonium nitrate in their airbags?
Ammonium nitrate provides more bang in a smaller volume than other propellants, which allows the company to offer a more compact device to manufacturers. That’s a potential competitive advantage. In a story in the New York Times outlining Takata’s switch to ammonium nitrate in 2000, the company denied using ammonium nitrate to save costs.

What is Congress doing about the recalls?
At a hearing in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Takata officials were eviscerated by members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee over the faulty airbags and the company’s failure to notify NHTSA about them. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida demanded that automakers provide loaner cars or rentals to consumers who were waiting to get replacement airbags in their own cars “by virtue of the fear that has already gripped the public,” he said. Honda is already doing that.

Nelson also displayed a large photo of the damage done to the face of one woman, former Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman. She was severely injured in one eye by the flying shrapnel produced by an exploding Takata airbag after the 2002 Honda Civic she was driving was involved in a fender bender. “What happened to me was gruesome,” she testified, and called out Honda for allowing her to drive a defective car. “They did nothing to warn me,” she said.

Does Takata acknowledge its responsibility for injuries and deaths?
That’s exactly what Nevada Sen. Dean Heller asked during the Senate hearing. But Takata executives were both evasive and tongue-tied by language issues. Takata’s Hiroshi Shimizu, senior vice president for global quality assurance said via an interpreter that the company recognized three victims’ cases were linked to the Takata airbags but said two others were being investigated. So let’s take the three, said Heller. Does Takata take full responsibility for those three deaths? “My understanding is our products in these accidents worked abnormally,” said Shimizu, before stipulating, “From that sense, yes.”

Do regulators also deserve some blame?
The Senate committee member faulted the NHTSA for not being able to stay ahead of defects. Heller, a car enthusiast, chafed about the length of time the agency waits from when a defect is found and until a recall is ordered. “NHTSA is not recognizing the defects fast enough, he said. To help the agency speed up a bit, Heller and several other members of the committee are proposing a Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act that would encourage auto industry employees to identify defects to NHTSA with the prospect of collecting a share of any fines of more than $1 million.

MONEY consumer psychology

Why JetBlue Can Break Your Heart, but Comcast Never Will

JetBlue Planes
Seth Wenig—AP

It hurts to find out that brands like JetBlue want you to love them—but they only love you for your money.

This week, JetBlue announced it’s adding more seats on planes and new fees for checked baggage. The moves are clearly aimed at hiking profits—which is what businesses are supposed to do, right?

So why, then, has JetBlue’s policy change been met with outrage and a sense of betrayal? Isn’t JetBlue just a business that’s, you know, in the business of making money? Shouldn’t we fully expect these kind of profit-first policies? And if this kind of behavior is to be expected, why would there ever be any sense of surprise or disappointment, let alone heartbreak?

The subject brings to mind the old fable “The Farmer and the Viper,” in which a farmer nurses a freezing snake back to health—and is then promptly bitten and killed by the snake as soon as it has the opportunity. The moral is that you shouldn’t be surprised, and you certainly shouldn’t feel betrayed, when a snake behaves like a snake. A similar takeaway comes from the disturbing 2005 documentary “Grizzly Man,” which tells the tale of a man and his girlfriend who were killed, in essence, because a bear behaved like a bear.

The complication is that consumers don’t necessarily view brands that we interact with regularly as animals that will take advantage of us whenever the opportunity arises. We’re encouraged to “like” brands on Facebook, and marketers spend billions to try to get us to love brands, ideally with a cult-like fervor. We tend to view favorite brands as trusted partners or even friends, and we can feel violated and betrayed to the core when the terms of what can be a very warm partnership are exposed as more “strictly business,” to quote The Godfather.

“Some brands are so good at connecting with consumers on an emotional level that the relationship feels incredibly personal, much like a friendship,” explains Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and TIME and MONEY contributor. “In most cases the consumers feel they share the same values as the brand, which they see as manifesting human characteristics.”

This certainly seems the case for JetBlue and its longtime customers. The brand resonated and indeed became beloved because of the perks (free TVs and snacks for everyone) and amenities (leather seats and plenty of legroom all around) as much as because of its overriding ethos that all customers were valued—and valued equally. What helped make JetBlue stand out and become an industry darling is that its competitors in the airline business are notorious for exceptionally poor customer service, especially in regards to passengers who are paying the least for their flights.

Slowly, though, JetBlue tweaked its business model—adding a business class and adding more fees recently—and with this week’s announcement about shrinking legroom and the addition of baggage fees, it’s clear that the values originally embraced by the brand have changed as well. For the people who loved and were loyal to JetBlue specifically because of its egalitarian, customers-first approach, the latest moves serve as a big slap in the face with the cold-hearted reality that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but hurts nonetheless: Brands like JetBlue want you to love them, but they only love you for your money.

Experts who study marketing and company-consumer relationships believe that brands that have developed cult-like followings for supposedly doing things the right and honorable way—Chipotle and Whole Foods come to mind—are likely to feel greater backlash if and when they appear to violate customers’ trust. “Our theory is that the people who feel most betrayed are the ones who were most attached to the brand in the first place,” says Debbie MacInnis, a marketing professor at the USC Marshall School of Business who is researching brand betrayal with colleagues.

By and large, consumers tend to get most attached to scrappy smaller brands with a streak of independence—brands they can identify with and feel good about supporting. “We love underdog stories,” says MacInnis. “We see ourselves as underdogs. We love the little guy, so there’s a natural brand connection.” It’s a connection that goes beyond a mere mutually beneficial economic transaction.

On the other hand, brands that are monolithic and fail to develop long-lasting loyalty or affection—big banks, pay TV and wireless providers, and yes, airlines come to mind—are less at risk of betraying customers’ trust because there was little to no trust to begin with. “You’re not likely to feel betrayed when a cable company treats you poorly,” says MacInnis. “You’ll shake it off and jump” to a competitor without blinking (assuming another one is actually available). “The transgressions are par for the course.”

It’s all about expectations: When someone we thought of as a friend turns out to be just another snake, it’s heartbreaking. Hence, the presence of several “Et Tu, JetBlue?” headlines out there, indicating that the once beloved airline’s betrayal is one of epic proportions.

“When consumers sense they’ve been used or manipulated they feel a burn more similar to a human betrayal than simple transactional disappointment,” says Yarrow. However, bigger, widely bashed brands are “lucky” enough to disappoint customers so frequently that there’s no surprise or sense of betrayal when they make yet another profit-first, customer-unfriendly move. “Consumers have such low expectations of Comcast, for example, they are thrilled when there simply aren’t problems.”

TIME Parenting

5 Million Strollers Recalled After Fingertip Amputations

The company received 11 reports of fingertip amputation, partial-fingertip amputation and finger laceration on faulty hinges

Graco is recalling almost 5 million strollers after complaints that children’s fingers were at risk of being amputated.

A hinge on the side of the stroller can pinch a baby’s finger, according to federal officials; Graco received 11 reports of fingertip amputation, partial-fingertip amputation and finger laceration.

The company is reaching out to parents to contact it for a free repair kit to be shipped next month that includes hinge covers. In the meantime, the company advised parents to exercise caution:

“While waiting for a repair kit, caregivers should exercise extreme care when unfolding the stroller to be certain that the hinges are firmly locked before placing a child in the stroller. Caregivers are advised to immediately remove the child from a stroller that begins to fold to keep their fingers from the side hinge area.”

TIME Food

Holiday Ham May Be Pricier Than Ever

A deadly virus killed millions of piglets.

Ham might take a bigger cut out of your budget this holiday season.

Prices have soared to a record high this fall ahead of the holidays—when half of total ham consumption occurs—after a devastating virus shrank the number of hogs slaughtered this year by more than five percent, Bloomberg reports.

The price has been pushed up further because farmers have fed their hogs more to fatten them up and make up for losses caused by the virus; while fatter pigs mean more meat, their hind legs can grow too large for the seven-pound spiral-cut, half hams popular during the holidays.

Read more at Bloomberg

TIME Retail

Amazon’s Massive Holiday Sales Start a Week Before Black Friday

An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013.
An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

The online super retailer is sliding ahead of the competition

Amazon is beginning its deals for this year’s Thanksgiving shopping blowout earlier than ever, using its online platform to get ahead of competing retailers.

Amazon.com will begin offering deals on Friday, Nov. 21, one full week before the traditional Black Friday, the company announced Thursday. It will add new deals as often as every ten minutes for eight days.

Some deals Amazon is already offering include up to 45% off on some Samsung TVs, as well as nearly half off on many popular books. A full list of Amazon’s deals can be found here.

Among Amazon’s advantages this holiday shopping season is that as an online retailer, it can avoid making customers uneasy by opening stores on Thanksgiving, a practice many brick-and-mortar stores have begun employing. Amazon is also getting a head start on competitors by beginning deals earlier in the month and not waiting until Cyber Monday, a digital deals day that traditionally takes place on the Monday following Black Friday.

“If you’re Amazon, you don’t want to just be batting in the second slot on Cyber Monday,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial. “There’s been some pushback as Black Friday pushes into Thanksgiving, disturbing the holiday period, so its a window of opportunity for Amazon.”

 

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: The Air Bag Recall That’s Affecting Millions of Cars

Exploding air bags made by Takata Corporation

Exploding air bags have led to one of the biggest auto recalls in history, one that’s five times larger than GM’s ignition-switch fiasco. How did this happen?

Several large automakers including BMW and Honda have used the air bags, made by Japanese company Takata Corporation, the largest supplier of air bags parts in the world. Now they have had to recall millions of cars after the defective driver’s-side air bags have been blamed for at least five deaths and more than 100 injuries in the past decade.

Watch #TheBrief to find out more about the recall.

MONEY Scams

Price-Matching Scam Had $400 Sony PS4 Selling for $90 at Walmart

Scammers have been trying to take advantage of Walmart's price-matching policy by using fraudulent web pages to get Wii U bundles and Sony PS4 consoles for a fraction of their actual prices.

Leading into the 2014 winter holiday shopping season, Walmart broadened its price match guarantee policy to include prices offered by major online retailers like Amazon, as well as websites for stores such as Best Buy, Sports Authority, Staples, and Target. Until the change was made, Walmart would only match the sale prices posted in advertisements and competitors’ weekly circulars.

Well, it didn’t take long for opportunists to try—and, in some cases, succeed—to take advantage of price matching from Walmart and other stores. Earlier this week, Kotaku reported that a pricing glitch over the weekend on the Sears website showed Wii U bundles listed at $60 when they normally sell for upwards of $300. Sears fixed the mistake, and it appears as if no one was actually able to buy the console bundle for that price at the retailer’s site. But that didn’t stop many shoppers from trying to get the same deal from Sears’ competitors such as Walmart, Toys R Us, and Best Buy by way of their price matching policies. It’s unclear how many consumers were able to get the price honored, but several showed off their receipts at Reddit—one Toys R Us receipt notes the customer “Saved $240″ on the purchase—and surely many more succeeded and kept things quiet.

Then scammers took things a step further by creating fake Amazon.com pages that appeared to list Sony PS4 game consoles, which normally run $400, for under $100. As Consumerist.com explained, anyone with a registered account for selling things on Amazon can list an item at whatever price they choose. Amazon tries to root out obviously fraudulent or misleading price listings—such as a new Sony PS4 for $90—but it can take some time to catch up with the fraudsters. Before that happens, someone can take a screen shot and bring what appears to be a perfectly legitimate image into a store and ask that the price be matched.

That’s what happened at Walmart this week. By Wednesday, Walmart caught up with the scam, and some stores posted signs stating that the “PS4 Amazon.com Ad will not be Ad matched Due to Fraud.” The world’s largest retailer alerted CNBC and others that its price-matching policy has been updated to clarify that stores will not honor “Prices from marketplace and third-party sellers” such as those Amazon pages that were manipulated by users. “We can’t tolerate fraud or attempts to trick our cashiers,” a statement from Walmart explained. “This kind of activity is unfair to the millions of customers who count on us every day for honest value.”

So the scam appears to be dead, but not before an unknown number of consumers were able to take advantage of it and snag ultra-cheap PS4 consoles and, in some cases, cut-rate Xbox Ones and video games. If you think that the only ones hurt by this kind of behavior are Walmart and other major retailers, consider how much more difficult and time-consuming it’s going to be for perfectly honest customers to get genuine prices matched. Now that retailers are on the lookout for scams, be prepared to get the third degree when seeking a price match, even if you’re completely on the up and up.

TIME Companies

Uber Is Hiring Lawyers to Rework Its Privacy Policy

"Our business depends on the trust of the millions of riders and drivers who use Uber," the company says

Uber is hiring a team of data privacy experts to review its internal policies as the company seeks to recover from an outcry over its alleged mishandling of users’ data.

Attorney Harriet Pearson and other members of law firm Hogan Lovells have joined Uber’s privacy team, according to a Thursday blog post, where they will review and recommend improvements for Uber’s data privacy policy.

Uber has faced a barrage of criticism in recent days over its privacy slip-ups, which include reports of company employees tracking the location of a journalist and a venture capitalist during their rides on the service, as well as a conversation in which an Uber executive proposed the idea of investigating hostile reporters. The ride-sharing company is aiming to restore trust among its users, some of whom have said they will no longer use the app.

“The trip history of our riders is important information and we understand that we must treat it carefully and with respect, protecting it from unauthorized access,” Uber said. “Our business depends on the trust of the millions of riders and drivers who use Uber.”

The company also published a clarification on its privacy policy on Tuesday, emphasizing that it only uses customers’ data for legitimate business purposes.

TIME Careers & Workplace

You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

Business People Raising Their Hands
Getty Images

How simply asking for things in the right way can get you almost anything you want in life

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

90% of people are afraid to ask for things. Is that a real statistic? Nope. But I believe it to be a true statistic, if not higher than that.

We, as humans, are afraid to ask for things. We’re afraid to ask people to buy our products. We’re afraid to ask someone out on a date. We’re afraid to ask for more money at our jobs. We’re afraid to ask the tough questions in our relationships.

We’re afraid to ask because we fear rejection.

Rejection is this unbelievably strong thing that keeps us from getting so much in life. If you experience rejection one time, it is likely to derail you from ever asking for that thing again. Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of asking someone on a date and getting rejected. Unfortunately, that horrible empty feeling sticks with us for years to come (and for some people, the rest of their lives).

But why is rejection so strong? Why is it so hard to overcome the feeling that the tiny two-letter word “no” gives us?

Much like rejection, negativity is incredibly powerful. 100 people could tell you how freaking amazing you look today, but if one person says you look like crap, those 100 positive messages won’t matter.

See, on some level, we all just want to fit in. The reason we fixate on things like rejection and negativity is because they make us feel alienated from the rest of the world. Experiencing those things on any scale cuts us to our most basic human core.

Think about the last time you asked for something out of your comfort zone? Or even something in your comfort zone. You probably felt hesitation. You probably had 20 scenes play out in your mind, all disasters and worst-case scenarios. You might have even delayed your ask until you finally built up enough courage.

Over the years, I’ve had success in business for two reasons:

  1. I wasn’t afraid to ask for things most people wouldn’t dare ask for.
  2. I was willing to work my ass off to get the thing I wanted, because it was something I was really passionate about.

When people hear that I’ve made over $1,000,000 and worked with over 2,000 companies since 2009, I’m sure it comes off like a nice shiny success story. But what they don’t hear is that I sent more than 15,000 emails to make those deals happen (75% of those emails were most likely follow ups).

Writing that many emails wasn’t easy and on many occasions I was afraid to make “the ask.” One thing that always helped me overcome my own fear of asking was that I believed in myself and the thing I was asking for. If you don’t believe in what you’re asking for, you’re never going to overcome your initial fear.

Everyone wants to make good money, but most people are afraid to put in the hard work to make it happen. There were many times when I got discouraged when people said “no” to me. There were many times when I wanted to give up and thought my ideas weren’t good when I got negative criticism. But I believed in what I was selling and wanted it more than the feeling of rejection could dissuade me.

The simple magic to getting anything you want in life is just to ask.

The only caveat to simply asking for what you want is this: make sure you do it with creativity, confidence and effort.

When it comes to selling something online, your product or service most likely has competition. Someone else is already asking people to buy, so that alone should give you the validation and confidence to ask. But, you should also think about a unique or creative way you can package your ask so it stands out from the crowd.

When it comes to relationships, confidence is key. No one wants to talk to, let alone go on a date with, someone who has zero confidence. But just like asking for things, the more you work to build your confidence and the more practice you put in, the more results you’ll see. No one becomes confident overnight or by reading a few self-help books. You have to put in the work and not give up at the first sign of rejection.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens put it perfectly: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

Effort is truly a secret to success. No one has ever put in an insane amount of effort for something and not gotten some value out of it. The more you ask for things, in the right ways, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at asking, the amount of times you hear “yes” will increase.

You’re going to hear “no.” You’re going to feel rejected. You’re going to encounter negativity. But if you truly want whatever you’re asking for, you won’t and shouldn’t give up at the first sign or thought of adversity.

Start repeating these words to yourself every time you’re feeling hesitation: You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more of my writing, subscribe to my weekly newsletter (feel free to say “no” I certainly won’t mind).

TIME Retail

Only 11% of Americans Plan to Shop on Thanksgiving, Poll Suggests

Customers shop at a Walmart store in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles November 26, 2013. This year, Black Friday starts earlier than ever.
Customers shopping at a Walmart store on Black Friday 2013. Kevork Djansezian—Reuters

Many retailers are opening earlier than ever this Thanksgiving

About 11% of consumers plan to shop on Thanksgiving, a new poll suggests, despite a retail bargain frenzy brewing around Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals this year.

The survey, released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), shows that 61.1% of shoppers will bargain hunt over the Thanksgiving weekend, which is consistent with data from last year. But, only 18.3% of those who said they would or might shop that weekend said they would do so on Thanksgiving Day, down from 23.5% last year. MarketWatch reports this indicates that about 11% of consumers overall plan to go deal-hunting that day.

“We could witness a sea change this holiday season as consumers’ reliance on extremely deep discounts over the biggest shopping weekend of the year shifts to more of a ‘wait- and-see’ mentality around what retailers will be offering on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release.

[MarketWatch]

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