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 Food & Drink

5 Amazing Facts About Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup

150325_EM_MacaroniKetchup
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 Odd Spending

Get a Vasectomy and Have a Ball Watching March Madness

Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan State Spartans to win the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.
Elsa—Getty Images Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan State Spartans to win the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.

Yes, timing your vasectomy to coincide with the NCAA March Madness tournament is a thing.

“Get your vasectomy, then sit on the couch for 3 days watching sports–Doctors orders!”

That’s part of the pitch for the “Vas Madness” deal currently being offered by the Texas-based Urology Team. The special package costs $595 and includes an initial consultation and the surgical procedure that’ll stop you from getting anyone pregnant. But sorry sports fans, “consultations and vasectomies cannot be performed on the same day,” the promotion warns.

As bizarre as it sounds, the idea of getting snipped around the time of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not new. Vasectomy clinics report spikes in appointments around March Madness, presumably from men who feel that there’s no better period than tourney time to recover from the briefly painful procedure. The recovery involves little more than a few days of guilt-free sitting and icing one’s nether regions. And since you’re immobile for a spell thanks to doctor’s orders, why not see if there are any good games on TV?

One year, a clinic in Cape Cod even threw in free pizza as part of its March Madness-themed vasectomy package.

The vasectomy-March Madness connection dates back at least a half-dozen years. Many people credit the seemingly odd concept to the Oregon Urology Institute, which ran a “Snip City” radio ad in the late ’00s, encouraging men to have a little “snip-snip,” followed by “doctors orders to sit back and watch nonstop basketball.”

Who are the men who time this sensitive, life-changing procedure in such a way? “They are the clever ones, the men who put some thought into when they scheduled that not-often-discussed elective surgery,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported back in 2009. “Their wives might even wait on them.”

At the time, one Cleveland-area urologist told the paper that his schedule was completely booked with vasectomies timed to coincide with March Madness. And he said he fully understood why men timed it so: “If they’re going to have a day off, it might as well be on a day when they would want to be watching basketball, as opposed to watching ‘Oprah.'”

MONEY Sports

Here’s the Absolute Cheapest NCAA March Madness Ticket

SMU Mustang players and fans along the sidelines start to celebrate very late during the second half of the championship game in the 2015 American Athletic Conference basketball championships between UConn and SMU at the XL Center in Hartford, CT. SMU went on to beat UConn 62-54.
Bill Shettle—AP SMU is a long way from home in its opening round March Madness game in Louisville. That's one reason why tickets are so cheap.

Got $4? That's the asking price for some tickets to NCAA tournament games on Thursday.

If you’re in Louisville on Thursday and aren’t busy during normal work hours, you might want to catch a game at the KFC Yum Center. List prices for a pair of early round NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament games are available now starting at about the price of a latte—and cheaper than the cost of a beer inside the arena.

As of Tuesday, the starting price for tickets to two afternoon matchups (Iowa State vs. UAB, followed by SMU vs. UCLA) was just $5 on secondary market sales sites such as TiqIQ. By Wednesday morning, the cheapest tickets were down to $4, and hundreds of seats were listed at $15 or less. Over at StubHub, another ticket resale site that includes all fees in list prices, seats at this afternoon session were available for a grand total of $9.25 apiece.

Meanwhile, tickets to Thursday’s evening session in Louisville cost a minimum of $119 as of Wednesday on StubHub, and “All Sessions” passes for all the games in Round 2 and 3 at the KFC Yum Center are averaging over $750. Why, then, are the afternoon tickets so cheap?

Well, for one thing, most people have to work while the afternoon games are taking place. Perhaps more important, the teams in the afternoon session are a long way from their home fan bases. Among the teams playing, Iowa State is the closest to Louisville—roughly 600 miles, or a nine-hour car drive, away.

What’s more, the Thursday night games in Louisville feature the University of Kentucky, the undefeated, overall #1 seed in the tournament and a team that happens to play its home games less than 90 minutes’ drive away and draws legions of passionate fans from all over the state. What we have here is simply supply and demand in action.

Similarly, the second cheapest tournament ticket available right now is also a Thursday afternoon session. According to TiqIQ, tickets to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena for the two early Thursday matchups of Baylor vs. Georgia St. followed by Xavier vs. Ole Miss were starting at $13 this week, while the average list price was $55.

Bear in mind that the brilliance of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament is that you never know which games will be the most exciting. There are always some upsets and last-second drama in the opening rounds, and neither the price of tickets nor the size of the schools involved is an indication of which matchups will pack the most thrills. In other words, a ticket for $5 or $10 may wind up being even more of a bargain than you think.

MORE: The Simple Free Hack to Watch NCAA March Madness Without a Cable Bill

MONEY freebies

Get Free Ice Cream Cones and Italian Ices This Week

Ice cream cones
Tangmo Clifford—Alamy

Dairy Queen is giving away free ice cream cones to all customers on Monday, March 16. Then on Friday, March 20, Rita's is kicking off the beginning of spring with an Italian ice giveaway.

Dairy Queen is celebrating 75 years in business with a Free Cone Day on Monday. Like it sounds, on Free Cone Day all visitors at participating locations are welcomed to a free ice cream cone—specifically, a small size soft-serve vanilla cone.

For those who prefer chocolate, or the best-of-both-worlds, altogether superior vanilla-chocolate swirl, limiting the giveaway strictly to plain old vanilla is kind of a bummer. But hey, a freebie’s a freebie.

A few days later, on Friday, March 20, customers at Rita’s Italian Ice are welcomed to a free Italian ice in any flavor of their choosing—including but not limited to the top five flavors: Mango, Cherry, Cotton Candy, Lemon, and Swedish Fish. Rita’s freebies come as a result of the 600-location chain’s hosting its 23rd annual First Day of Spring Free Italian Ice Giveaway. All visitors get a free Italian ice, no purchase necessary. The company expects to give away more than one million Italian ices on the big day.

Looking further down the road, there’s another cool freebie to mark on your calendar: April 14, 2015, is Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day. Yet another free cone day usually takes place annually at Haagen-Dazs shops in May, but no specific date has been announced yet for 2015.

MONEY deals

Pi Day Deals, Freebies, and Events for Math Lovers and Haters Alike

Pumpkin pie with Pi letter
Alamy

This Saturday is not only Pi Day (3.14), but it's the Pi Day of the Century (3.14.15). Accompanying the big day are tons of activities for math nerds nationwide, or just people who like free pie and great deals on pizza and beer.

Pi, or π, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It’s usually shortened to 3.14, which is why March 14 is celebrated every year as Pi Day, but it’s an irrational number that continues infinitely without a pattern, like so: 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582…

The year 2015 marks a very special Pi Day, one that comes only once a century: 3.14.15. Hence some once-in-a-lifetime Pi Day celebrations and promotions around the country are planned for this Saturday.

But what’s the big deal about pi in the first place?

“To mathematicians, pi is a powerful superhero that turns up all the time in a huge range of mathematical problems,” Keith Devlin, Stanford University mathematician and the NPR “Math Guy”, explained recently to USA Today. “Pi deserves its special day.”

Unsurprisingly, the are many Pi Day promotions that’ll get math nerds excited: For instance, the American Mathematical Society is discounting its publications (40% off for members, 25% off for nonmembers) for orders placed using the code MT159 from March 14 through the end of the month. It’s just like Black Friday!

There are plenty of deals meant to appeal to C students who hated math too. The fast-casual Blaze Pizza chain is offering any pizza for $3.14 on Pi Day. Your Pie, a pizza restaurant franchise in the southeastern U.S., is knocking $3.14 off pizzas and handing out free gelato and pi-related swag on Saturday. Up in New England, Portland Pie Company locations host an annual customer appreciation day on Pi Day, and on 3.14.15 they will be selling $3.14 pints of beer, $3.14 kids meals, and $3.14 10-inch specialty pizza pies.

Cities around the country have tons of Pi Day deals and events as well.

Boston: In addition to restaurants in Boston and Cambridge offering special $3.14 pricing on pizza or pie on Saturday, institutions ranging from the Boston Children’s Museum to the Harvard University Math Department are hosting Pi Day activities. MIT, meanwhile, has made it tradition for 3.14 to be the day for admissions decisions to be announced. This year, the school created a goofy prank video, supposedly showing that students will be alerted of their acceptance via letters delivered by drones flown all over the world, with the dramatic “Flight of the Valkyries” playing in the background:

Chicago: The day starts in the Windy City with a special 3.14-mile Pi K Fun Run/Walk in four locations, organized by the Illinois Science Council. To participate, tickets cost $31.41, though in homage to Albert Einstein you’ll get $5 off registration if your first name is Albert or Alberta. Later, the Adler Planetarium is hosting Ultimate Pi Day festivities on Saturday that include a pie eating contest, free samples of pizza and pie from local restaurants, and a nighttime event for those 21 and over with music, panel discussion, and a cash bar. Throughout the day, many bakeries and pizza places in the city are doing Pi Day promotions like $3.14 pies and $3.14 combos with a soda and a slice of pizza.

New York City: MoMath, which is the hip name for the National Museum of Mathematics, is organizing a Pi Day of the Century nighttime event in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. Participants will encircle a park fountain with glowing light sticks, and there will be a countdown to precisely 9:26 p.m., so that it will be 3.14.15.9.26 (just like pi), with free hot chocolate and pie to follow. The museum is hosting Pi Day activities earlier in the day for kids, starting with a countdown outside leading to 9:26 a.m. and an early 9:30 opening rather than the usual 10 a.m.

Princeton, N.J.: Arguably no town celebrates Pi Day with as much brilliant enthusiasm as Princeton, where mathematical genius Albert Einstein—born on March 14 in 1879, by the way—lived and taught. Princeton is overloaded with Pi Day deals at restaurants, theaters, and shops along the lines of $3.14 off food orders and free slices of pie for customers. There are also special events scheduled throughout the day, including a parade (or “Pirade”), an Einstein lookalike contest, a pi recitation competition, and something dubbed the Nerd Herd Smart Phone Pub Crawl.

San Francisco: The Exploratorium museum holds annual Pi Day activities, with pi- and pie-related panel discussions, movies, dough-tossing, and freebies on this year’s schedule.

Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post rounded up a bunch of Pi Day deals and activities in the D.C. metro area, most involving $3.14 deals on pizza, pie, and in at least one case, beer.

MONEY Travel

Spring Ski Lift Pass Deals Offer the Best Value on Snow

150305_EM_Ski_1
John W Banagan/Getty Images

Ski resorts around the country—and in New England in particular—have rolled out new springtime deals that promise tons of skiing for a relative pittance.

Walk up to the ticket window this weekend at Killington, the East Coast’s largest ski resort, and a one-day adult lift pass will cost a cool $92. For a little more than double that, however, the 1,509-acre Vermont resort is selling a special spring season pass that provides unlimited skiing for two months, or perhaps even more. Killington is known to stay open until June, depending on conditions, and the pass, dubbed the “Nor’Beaster” and priced at $199, grants lift access from March 14 until whenever the season ends.

Killington isn’t the only mountain with springtime lift ticket deals featuring seemingly screwy pricing. Okemo, just south of Killington, offers a Spring Skiesta Card for $99, allowing unlimited lift tickets from March 20 through the end of the season. Further south still, the $119 Spring Loaded pass at Bromley provides four days of skiing any day now through December 18, 2015. Considering that the walkup price for lift tickets at Okemo and Bromley go as high as $92 and $71, it’s easy to see how these passes can pay off in as little as two days.

How could it make sense for mountains to offer multi-day passes at rates that seem phenomenally cheap compared with the regular walkup price? Especially given that it’s been an absolutely amazing winter for skiing in the Northeast, and it sure looks like the record snowfall is leading right into a terrific, long spring ski season?

One explanation is that resorts are trying to eke out every last dollar from customers during a time of year when—regardless of how much snow is still on the ground—attention shifts away from winter sports toward golf, baseball, or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve snow and cold.

On the one hand, these resorts are theoretically losing money from guests who would have paid full price for several days’ worth of lift tickets during the spring season. On the other, the mountains are potentially cashing in from guests who are nudged into the upsell of a pricier pass, which they might not even use for more than a single day. As for those skiers and riders who do get the most bang out of their spring passes, they’re likely eating, drinking, getting tune-ups, booking hotels, and otherwise spending money that the resort probably wouldn’t otherwise see had the deals not been so tempting. If they get you to come back one more weekend than you planned on, that’s a win for the resort.

At some point, resorts are also simply compelled to offer super cheap spring promotions because that’s what the competition is doing. The mountains that don’t enter the game will lose the battle to woo a pool of skiers that shrinks smaller and smaller as the season comes to a close.

While cheap, end-of-season passes have grown particularly popular in the Northeast, there are plenty of deals out West as well. Oregon’s Timberline, for instance, is selling a spring pass with unlimited skiing and riding now through May 25 for just $99. Steamboat in Colorado, meanwhile, offers a “Springalicious” pass good for any three days from April 5 to 12, as well as a Double Dip Pass valid for unlimited skiing from April 5 at Steamboat and Winter Park/Mary Jane, starting at $169.

Multi-day passes are hardly the only kinds of deals waved in front of skiers to keep them coming back to the mountains in springtime. A common marketing strategy to get customers to pay up for season passes early is to let them ski for free in the spring on a pass that’s valid for the following winter. There are also wacky one-day deals aimed at attracting skiers for one last spring hurrah, like Patriot’s Day at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, when a lift ticket purchased on April 20 not only costs just $17.76, it comes with a voucher good for a second day early next season.

Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of ski mountains now utilize dynamic pricing sites like Liftopia and GetSkiTickets.com to sell discounted tickets at whatever price the laws of supply and demand dictate. It goes without saying that prices at these discount sites are substantially cheaper in the spring than they are during peak winter weeks.

It also goes without saying that there’s rarely any reason to pay the full walkup price for lift tickets anywhere, no matter what time of year.

MONEY freebies

How to Get Free Pancakes on Tuesday, Courtesy of IHOP

Maple syrup runs down the side of a short stack of three pancakes at the International House of Pancakes.
Torin Halsey—AP These handsome fellows can be all yours on March 3 for the extremely reasonable price of free.

National Pancake Day, yet another made-up food holiday, is Tuesday, March 3. That means IHOP customers get a free short stack of pancakes.

Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of National Pancake Day, an annual event in which IHOP customers get free pancakes and millions of dollars are raised for charity. This magic combo easily makes Pancake Day one of our favorite fake holidays of the year.

Getting free pancakes is simple enough. All you have to do is head to a participating IHOP—the vast majority play along—and ask for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Easy as that.

In exchange for your free breakfast, IHOP will ask you to consider giving a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another designated local charity. For the 2015 edition of its National Pancake Day giveaway, IHOP hopes to raise $3.5 million for charity. The flapjack franchise has raised nearly $16 million in Pancake Day-related charitable donations since 2006, when the marketing stunt began.

TIME deals

Visa Replaces American Express as Costco’s Credit Card

A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington on Jan. 29, 2014.
Bloomberg/Getty Images A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington on Jan. 29, 2014.

Costco announced that the retailer’s credit card network will be handled by Visa next year, an announcement that comes weeks after it sideswiped Visa rival American Express in a move that ended a 16-year relationship with the retailer.

The retailer, 19th on the Fortune 500, said Citigroup would be the exclusive issuer of Costco’s co-branded credit cards while Visa will be replacing American Express as the credit card network for Costco in the U.S. and Puerto Rico beginning April 1, 2016. Costco, known for issuing sparsely worded press releases, provided few details about the deal with Visa.

The Costco business is a big coup for Visa, as Costco is one of the nation’s largest retailers. Shares of American Express dropped last month after the credit card company announced that its exclusivity deal with the wholesale club retailer was set to expire at the end of March in 2016. As WSJ reported previously, the agreement had driven a big chunk of business for American Express. But when the arrangement ends, millions of customers will be forced to use a different credit card when shopping at Costco.

Losing Costco’s business will dent results at American Express, as that business generated about 8% of the company’s worldwide billed business in 2014. Over 70% of the spending on those accounts occurred outside a Costco warehouse, so business was widely spread. American Express said it did try to win the business, but ultimately it was “unable to agree to terms that would have provided attractive returns for our company and our shareholders.” American Express warned it could book a restructuring charge and potentially cut costs if it isn’t able to generate enough business from other products to offset the lost business associated with the Costco co-branded portfolio.

MONEY freebies

Krispy Kreme Is Giving Away 1 Million Free Donuts on Tuesday

Krispy Kreme donut production line
Lightworks Media—Alamy Krispy Kreme donut production line

To celebrate the opening of its 1,000th shop on Tuesday, Krispy Kreme is giving away one glazed donut to the first 1,000 customers in each location.

Tuesday is not the deliciously wonderful fake holiday known as National Donut Day (which takes place in June). But it’s a pretty good runner up. If you’re one of the first 1,000 customers at a participating Krispy Kreme donut shop on Tuesday, you’ll be rewarded with one glazed donut, free of charge.

The promotion is being held to celebrate the opening of a new Krispy Kreme location in Kansas City, which will be the donut chain’s 1,000th location around the globe. The Kansas City location will open at 6 a.m., and there is sure to be quite a long line well before dawn. That’s because the first person in line will get one dozen donuts for free, once a week for a year. The next 99 people in line, meanwhile, receive a dozen free donuts once a month for 12 months. The first 150 folks in line get commemorative T-shirts as well.

Krispy Kreme isn’t limiting the celebration to Kansas City, however. The company has 1,000 locations in 24 countries around the world, and all participating stores are giving away 1,000 donuts to the first 1,000 customers. A thousand locations multiplied by 1,000 donuts equals a Dr. Evil-ish 1 million donuts.

The promotion is not valid in grocery stores, and as the Consumerist pointed out, some locations might decide not to participate because of “stingy or joyless managers who chose to not take part.” But surely most Krispy Kremes will play along, and collectively they’ll give out something close to a cool 1 million donuts. If you want to score your free donut, it’s probably best to hit your nearby Krispy Kreme early on Tuesday morning.

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