TIME Food & Drink

‘The Franken Frappuccino’ Comes to Life at Starbucks

But the ghoulish drink won't leave you green around the gills

Starbucks has launched a special Halloween-themed green beverage called the Franken Frappuccino.

The green-tea-based drink is made with peppermint syrup, white-chocolate sauce, java chips, whipped cream and mocha drizzle, reports People.

And it doesn’t seem to be leaving customers green around the gills. “It tastes like a Frappuccino version of mint chocolate ice cream — super yummy,” said Reddit user Callthewindreddit.

The limited edition Frappuccino is available to buy in select Starbucks stores from Oct. 29 to 31. And any grande Frappuccino bought after 2 p.m. will only cost $3, Starbucks said on their Instagram.

TIME Retail

Wal-Mart’s Apple Pay Competitor Has a Secret Weapon

Grand Opening At A New Wal-Mart Store
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. signage is displayed on a check out register during the grand opening of a new location in Torrance, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's perfectly tuned for low-budget shoppers with phones that aren't always cutting edge

Wal-Mart is among the biggest retailers not accepting Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system that got underway last week to rousing early success. The big box behemoth is instead going with a different, decidedly lower-tech solution called CurrentC, a mobile wallet developed by a group of merchants, Wal-Mart included, called MCX.

Despite not launching publicly yet, CurrentC is being lambasted in the tech press this week. Why? Over the weekend, several retailers involved with MCX stopped accepting Apple Pay after initially allowing it, which read to many as unfriendly to consumers. And on Wednesday, MCX revealed its email vendor was hacked, exposing CurrentC users’ email addresses and giving the company yet another PR headache.

CurrentC is also seen by many as having been designed more to benefit merchants than consumers. It’s certainly less user-friendly and probably less secure than Apple Pay, but it will help merchants sidestep the much-hated fees they have to pay every time a customer swipes a credit card. CurrentC is also just less cool than Apple Pay—from a tech obsessive’s perspective, it looks like a budget sedan to Apple Pay’s Tesla Model S.

But here’s the thing: None of the tech journalists I know shop at Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart’s lower-income shoppers, CurrentC could actually have some advantages over Apple Pay. To wit:

1. CurrentC is QR-code based, like Starbucks’ payment app. That makes it backwards compatible with older, cheaper phones (and Android phones) whereas Apple Pay only works with Apple’s top-of-the-line, brand-new phones. Eventually, those iPhones will get older and trickle down into lower-budget shoppers’ pockets, but that’ll take years. The trade-off here is that Apple’s NFC-based system is inherently more secure, as it doesn’t give retailers vital data about your payment method.

2. CurrentC supports consumer loyalty programs (read: coupons), whereas Apply Pay does not. Many shoppers deride loyalty programs as annoying, but I can speak from my experience as a broke college student when I say that coupons can be a vital lifeline for lower-income shoppers. Of course, that support comes at a privacy price: Loyalty programs are really just a thinly-veiled way for retailers to collect data about their consumers.

You’ll notice both of those points contain significant tradeoffs in terms of privacy, a point that Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized when he introduced the company’s service. Still, there are plenty of reasons for low-end shoppers to adopt CurrentC over Apple Pay, if they embrace the mobile wallet at all. Many won’t—but let the best mobile wallet win.

TIME Security

Apple Pay Competitor Defends Service After Hack Exposes Emails

220,000 Stores Start Accepting Apple Pay
A worker demonstrates Apple Pay inside a mobile kiosk sponsored by Visa and Wells Fargo to demonstrate the new Apple Pay mobile payment system on October 20, 2014 in San Francisco City. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

"This is not a breach"

Apple Pay competitor CurrentC defended the security of its mobile payment system in a Wednesday conference call, just hours after its parent company MCX reported that hackers had obtained some users’ e-mail addresses.

MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson said the attack, which targeted the company’s email vendor, was “not a breach” of the CurrentC app itself. He also emphasized that the incident affected mostly dummy e-mails used in the yet-unreleased service’s ongoing testing phase. Davidson also revealed that some dummy zip codes were stolen and that CurrentC’s systems had withstood several repeated attacks during the past week.

Davidson added the hack hasn’t made the company hesitant to store customer information in the cloud, a plan that’s been criticized given that CurrentC’s main competitor, Apple Pay, doesn’t collect any traceable information at all.

“In terms of consumers’ information and any payment credentials, they’re not stored on a device. They’re not actually present in the physical world,” Davidson said. “And that we think is a design or implementation that makes it far more secure than the world we live in today, and far more secure than many of the alternatives that have been advanced over the last few years.”

While MCX is a joint venture by retailers in order to create a retailer-owned payment system, Davidson said that the service is “first and foremost” about customer engagement. Part of that customer engagement will include a consumer privacy dashboard so that users can elect what information, if any, they would like to share with merchants.

MCX has been under scrutiny after reports suggested that MCX members CVS and Rite Aid disabled Apple Pay because of a contractual agreement for exclusivity. However, Davidson said that the company welcomes competition, and that it is the merchants’ choice whether or not to accept other forms of mobile payment. He added that MCX member retailers are not subject to fines if they choose to adopt Apple Pay, which registered 1 million credit cards in its first three days.

Davidson added that although some MCX merchants have blocked Apple Pay, MCX is open to member retailers using both Apple Pay and CurrentC simultaneously once the latter service goes public early next year.

“We have a great deal of respect for Apple, of course, and Apple Pay,” Davidson said. “We believe and our merchants believe we require two to three strong players in the space to build the ecosystem.”

TIME Security

Retailers’ Apple Pay Competitor Has Already Been Hacked

Retailers joined forces to create the digital wallet, which has received cold reviews

Apple Pay competitor CurrentC said Wednesday that hackers have gotten their hands on some users’ information, according to a statement from MCX, the service’s developer. The hackers targeted MCX’s e-mail provider, not the CurrentC app itself.

MCX said that the hackers accessed some e-mail addresses of CurrentC pilot program participants and individuals who had expressed interest in using the free digital wallet. MCX, a joint venture created by major U.S. retailers in part as an effort to avoid paying credit card transaction fees, did not disclose how many individuals were affected, but said many of the stolen e-mails addresses were not of actual users.

“Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected,” Linda Walsh, a spokeswoman for MCX, said in an e-mail. “We have notified our merchant partners about this incident and directly communicated with each of the individuals whose email addresses were involved.”

The hack targeting CurrentC, which is set for release next year, comes on the heels of news that retail giants CVS and Rite Aid—two members of MCX—will not accept Apple Pay despite at first allowing the service. A leaked in-house memo indicated that the reason may be the two companies’ involvement with CurrentC. Apple CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the situation amounted to a “skirmish.”

News of CurrentC’s vulnerability also adds to the less-than-warm reviews of the mobile payment service, which some reviewers say was designed more for the benefit of retailers than for customers. It also boosts the reputation of its competitor Apple Pay, which has championed its customer data security. Apple Pay users registered one million cards on the service in its first three days, Cook said earlier this week.

TIME Food & Drink

Mail-order Snack Maker Takes to the Skies

An American Airlines plane is seen at the Miami International Airport on Feb. 7, 2013 in Miami.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

NatureBox is thinking about delivery methods for its healthy snacks beyond the usual subscription service

NatureBox is refusing to be boxed in as just another e-commerce company.

This Saturday, the subscription snack box provider will begin to stock snacks that will be offered to passengers on American Airlines international flights to and from Latin America and Europe. The company’s snacks will be included in a breakfast box that’s offered to all passengers flying economy class for those American Airlines flights, so the pact is a reoccurring revenue stream for the year-long deal that could have an even longer runway if successful.

NatureBox co-founder and Chief Executive Gautam Gupta told Fortune the pact was important for the NatureBox to prove its brand can live “online as well as offline.”

“We see this as the first of many [partnerships] over the next several years,” Gupta said.

NatureBox’s core business is a subscription service, which sends five snack packs to an individual customer per month. But the company is thinking about delivery methods beyond the subscription service. Earlier this year, it started selling its snacks to corporate clients and has landed more than 200 customers, including Twitter and Square. The corporate business has resulted in 20%-30% growth month-over-month since it debuted, so NatureBox is encouraged by its early efforts to go beyond direct-to-consumer delivery.

NatureBox says it is seeing strong interest from retailers that could one day stock its products. The company, which sells jalapeño cashers, wholewheat blueberry fig bars and other healthy goodies that have fewer than 200 calories per serving, stays on top of food trends by leveraging data it gathers from the subscription service via customer feedback. It can quickly determine when a new flavor is a hit, or perhaps needs to be reworked if it doesn’t take off. The data can be helpful as NatureBox mulls opportunities to sell its brand outside the delivery business.

Still, the direct-to-consumer business model is a key to NatureBox’s success. NatureBox is expecting to ship 3 million of its snack packages this year, up from 1 million in 2013.

Gupta said the American Airlines pact puts NatureBox “in the hands of consumers that haven’t heard about us and gives them an opportunity to try our product.” He said NatureBox is just beginning to make a name for itself in the snacks aisle.

And there is a lot of room for the startup to grow. U.S. consumers — in particular Generation X, Millennials, and today’s teens and kids — are snacking more between and even at traditional meal time. Research firm NPD Group believes snack foods eaten at main meals will grow about 5% to 86.4 billion earnings in 2018.

NatureBox isn’t the only direct-to-consumer e-commerce company that is refusing to rely solely on a subscription business. Kiwi Crate, a company that sends monthly do-it-yourself kits meant for kids, is now stocking its items in over 1,700 Target stores. And like NatureBox’s Gupta, Kiwi Crate CEO Sandra Oh Lin has said she’s thinking about how she can expand her company’s brand to the retail channel.

“One of our challenges is getting Kiwi Crate into more hands and allowing the product to market itself,” Oh Lin said. “The retail channel helps address this.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME food and drink

SodaStream to Move Controversial West Bank Facility

Scarlett Johansson SodaStream Partnership
SodaStream unveils Scarlett Johansson as its first-ever Global Brand Ambassador at the Gramercy Park Hotel on January 10, 2014 in New York City. Mike Coppola—2014 Getty Images

The company says the move does not come in response to a Palestinian activist-led boycott

SodaStream announced Wednesday that it will move a controversial facility located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The company said that their reason for moving was “purely commercial,” and not due to pressure from Palestinian activists.

The Israeli company will relocate its operations from Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank to Lehavim, northern Israel by 2015. “We are offering all employees the opportunity to join us in Lehavim, and specifically, we are working with the Israeli government to secure work permits for our Palestinian employees,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said, according to the Associated Press.

Palestinian activists launched a boycott of the company because of its location in the West Bank, land that Israel has controversially laid claim to since 1967. Up until now, the company has maintained that shutting down its facility—which employed 500 Palestinians, 450 Israeli Arabs and 350 Israeli Jews—would not benefit the cause for Palestinian statehood or the Israeli-Palestine peace process.

Scarlett Johansson was swept up in the controversy earlier this year when the actress stepped down from her position as an Oxfam International ambassador over her role as a spokesperson for SodaStream. The Avengers actress said she had a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the international charity, which opposes all trade from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Johansson later defended the ad: “I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation,” she said. “Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Meanwhile, SodaStream has been having a hard time convincing U.S. consumers to buy at-home soda machines. Its third-quarter earnings dropped 14% from last year.

[AP]

MONEY

Why Angie’s List Keeps Getting Mixed Reviews

Angela "Angie" Hicks Bowman, co-founder of Angie's List Inc.
Angela "Angie" Hicks Bowman, co-founder of Angie's List Inc. Scott Eells—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even as the paid-membership review service Angie's List has announced major plans for expansion and increased hiring, investors are bailing on the company.

On Wednesday, the stock price of Angie’s List dropped more than 5%, after a decline of as much as 20% a week ago. Overall, the price of Angie’s List stock is hovering near its 52-week low, and it has fallen nearly 60% over the past 12 months. Last week’s plunge stemmed largely from the release of disappointing third-quarter results. Even as the company decreased marketing expenses by 20% and increased membership revenue by 7%, a slowdown in paid memberships and the failure to meet profit revenue expectations have apparently spooked investors.

Angie’s List watchers have been on a particularly wild rollercoaster ride of late. Roughly one month ago, a report surfaced indicating that the company had hired investment bankers to explore the possibility of putting Angie’s List up for sale. Shares of the stock rose more than 20% on the news but were still down more than 50% compared to a year ago.

A couple weeks later, Angie’s List announced that it was adding 1,000 jobs and expanding its Indianapolis headquarters, leading some to believe there would be much brighter days ahead. One week after that, third-quarter results were released, leading many investors to bail—but also leading opportunistic value investors such as billionaire Ken Griffin, owner of the Citadel Investment Group, to go bullish on Angie’s List.

So what does the future have in hold for a paid membership review service such as Angie’s List? Well, to anyone under the age of 30, the idea of paying for reviews or online content of any sort is probably puzzling. But for nearly two decades, the online review service Angie’s List has built a loyal, paying membership of homeowners and renters who find real value in a network where real-life people can exchange honest, trustworthy recommendations about handymen, contractors, plumbers, electricians, clean-it crews, and other services they’ve used personally.

To these folks, the value proposition is simple: When you’re considering who to hire to do a $50,000 home renovation, forking over $20 or $40 for access to reviews on local contractors is a no-brainer. Indeed, according to the company’s second quarter 2014 results, paid memberships hit 2.8 million at the end of June, up from 2.2 million a year before and just 820,000 as recently as 2011.

So why does Angie’s List appear to be on the ropes?

An in-depth post by the Indianapolis Business Journal suggests why: Angie’s List, founded in 1995, has never turned a profit. A report released last October, for instance, showed the company had a net loss of $13.5 million for the third quarter of 2013, following a loss of $18.5 million for the same period a year prior.

Why hasn’t all its growth translated into profits? Much of it can be attributed to (presumably expensive) expansion into new markets; the service is now available in 253 areas of the country, compared with around 200 in 2012.

More to the point, Angie’s List has been forced to scale back the amount charged for each membership as Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, and other user review sites have flourished with an open-to-everyone, completely free business model. The most recent Angie’s List report states that from 2010 onward, the average annual membership fee was just over $12, down from more than $36 a decade earlier.

And the amount members pay continues to drop. A Wall Street Journal post published a year ago detailed Angie’s List’s plans to cut membership fees in several key cities to around $10 annually. Today, it’s a cinch to head over to an online coupon site to find offers for 30% or 40% off, bringing the cost of a one-year subscription down as low as $5.39.

Meanwhile, the company recently agreed to pay a $2.8 million settlement to end a lawsuit alleging it had re-upped members without proper notice and at higher rates than subscribers were led to believe.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is that the trustworthiness of Angie’s List is increasingly being called into question. Critics point out that a growing portion of Angie’s List revenues come from service providers paying for advertising on the site—the same service providers that are supposed to be rated in non-biased fashion by members. “Almost 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from advertising purchased by the service providers being rated,” a 2013 Consumer Reports investigation explained.

CR called out in particular the practice of allowing advertisers with B or better ratings to be pushed to the top of search results as questionable at best. “We think the ability of A- and B-rated companies to buy their way to the top of the default search results skews the results… They get 12 times more profile views than companies that don’t buy ads.”

To be fair, many Angie’s List competitors also actively solicit the businesses reviewed on their sites as advertisers. Yelp is known to flood restaurants, doctors’ offices, and other small businesses with pleas to advertise on the site, to the point that one restaurant in the San Francisco area launched a bizarre “Hate Us on Yelp” campaign to undermine the user-review site. (Despite claims that it engages in what amounts to extortion, Yelp has repeatedly stated that advertising doesn’t affect a business’s ratings in any way.) Porch.com, an online network created to help homeowners find contractors and other home improvement services, launched a partnership referral system with Lowe’s this year. While businesses don’t pay to be listed, the website gives extra visibility to contractors that pay for a premium membership, such as making it easier to see their phone numbers in search results. (Full disclosure: Porch contributes articles on home improvement to Money.com.)

For the time being, Angie’s List seems to have figured out how low it must cut membership fees in order to keep subscriber numbers from falling. But the strategy hardly seems sustainable, especially if the perception that the service’s ratings aren’t trustworthy continues to spread. Convincing consumers it’s worthwhile to pay for a review-and-ratings service when there are free alternatives is tough enough. It’s borderline impossible to convince them that doing so is worth the money when there’s reason to question whether the ratings are entirely legitimate.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described how Porch.com enhances the visibility of contractors who pay for a premium profile on their site.

TIME Saving & Spending

5 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness, Backed by Science

Money
Getty Images

You have to be a spend wisely, though

The old saying that money can’t buy happiness? Not true, it turns out. But you have to spend strategically if you expect the Benjamins to put a smile on your face.

Buy moments, not stuff. According to Dan Gilbert, Harvard University psychology professor and author of Stumbling on Happiness, the key is to spend your money on experiences rather than material things. Material things, even if they’re expensive or you wanted them badly, tend to lose their luster after a while, literally and figuratively. Memories of people, places and activities, however, never get old. In a survey, Gilbert found that 57% of respondents reported greater happiness from an experiential purchase. Only 34% said the same about a material purchase.

Spend on others. In a study published this year, Harvard University researchers conducted experiments and found out that spending money on others (called “prosocial” spending in academic jargon) boosts people’s emotional and physical well-being.

“The benefits of prosocial spending… extend not only to subjective well-being but objective health,” they write. Despite people’s intuitions and inclinations to the contrary, one of the best ways to get the biggest payoff personally from a windfall of $20 is to spend it prosocially.”

Buy small splurges. Dropping a ton of cash on someting extravagent doesn’t give you the same bang for your buck because, no matter how special it is at first, you get used to having it over time and it becomes just another object. “Giving yourself inexpensive indulgences is a clever way to gather up lots of bursts of happiness,” a recent Business Insider article suggests, citing Gilbert’s research.

Buy what you like. No keeping up with the Joneses — that’s not going to make you happy. “There are a lot of reasons someone might buy something… but if the reason is to maximize happiness, the best thing for that person to do is purchase a life experience that is in line with their personality,” Ryan Howell, an associate psychology professor San Francisco State University, tells Forbes. Howell recently co-authored a study finding that when people spend money just to project or uphold a certain image, it doesn’t bring happiness.

Spend with others. You might think spending money on things or activities you do by yourself will make you happy, but a recent study in Psychological Science says that tactic can backfire. “To be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities,” says Gus Cooney , Harvard University research assistant and lead author of the study.

Doing things with friends or family, even if it’s not as exciting, makes you happy because it fosters a sense of togetherness and connection between you and other people. “The guy who had the extraordinary experience had a harder time fitting in,” Cooney tells The Atlantic.

TIME stocks

Space Company’s Stock Plummets to Earth After Rocket Explodes During Liftoff

The company whose rocket exploded in a massive fireball about 200 feet in the air Tuesday is taking a beating on the stock market. Shares for Orbital Sciences are down 15% in early morning trading after the company’s unmanned spacecraft, the Antares, malfunctioned just moments into its attempted journey to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Orbital stock was trading at about $25.50 around noon.

As TIME’s Jeff Kluger points out, the failed launch could be devastating for Orbital, which has been launching spacecraft for decades. The company is competing fiercely with the likes of Elon Musk’s upstart SpaceX to win NASA contracts to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Orbital is seeking to extend its contract, and this accident won’t help matters.

TIME Earnings

Facebook Spent $21 Billion on a Company That Just Lost $232 Million

Social Networks Facebook WhatsApp.
Facebook next to the WhatsApp logo on iPhone on February 25, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Marie Waldmann—Photothek via Getty Images

WhatsApp barely even generates revenue, but Zuckerberg doesn't care

Facebook’s pricey purchase of WhatsApp, which closed at a whopping $21.8 billion, turned heads earlier this year because few thought the startup was making much money. Turns out, WhatsApp has actually been losing money. A lot of it.

The mobile messaging platform, which had 450 million users when the acquisition was announced, posted a loss of $232 million in the first six months of 2014, according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The company’s primary revenue source is a $0.99-per-year subscription fee that only kicks in after the first year of use — the app doesn’t show users any ads. Apparently that fee doesn’t amount to much—WhatsApp generated $15 million in revenue in the first half of 2014, according to the SEC filing.

Most of the company’s massive loss came from stock sales and issuing stock options to employees, but even when just accounting for day-to-day operational activities, the company doesn’t make money. WhatsApp had a net loss of $139 million on revenue of about $10 million last year.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, of course, knew all of this before busting out his checkbook. Still, Zuckerberg’s not at all apologetic about spending such a large sum on such a tiny business. “This may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about 1 billion people using them,” he said Tuesday during a quarterly earnings call with Facebook investors. “Once we get to that scale, then we think that they will start to become meaningful businesses in their own right.”

In addition to WhatsApp, Zuckerberg noted Instagram and Facebook’s search function as platforms that have the potential to reach one billion users and become huge money faucets. And he emphasized that Facebook is planning to make more big-ticket bets in the future. The company shocked investors when it said on that Tuesday call that its expenses will increase by as much as 70% year-over-year in 2015 because of a ramp-up in staff and, most likely, acquisitions. Facebook’s shares slipped more than 6 percent on the news.

In some ways, Zuckerberg’s willingness to spend huge sums barging into new sectors echoes Jeff Bezos’s plan to expand Amazon’s reach into an increasingly broad set of categories, like movie streaming and smartphones. The difference is Facebook has built a robust and still-growing advertising business that constantly defies Wall Street’s expectations, so it has room to roam. The social network’s ambitions will only grow from here.

Read next: This Is the Single Craziest Number in Facebook’s Earnings Report

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