MONEY deals

Free ‘Transparent’ Streaming, Cheap Amazon Prime on Saturday

Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent Beth Dubber—© Amazon/Courtesy Everett Colle

Amazon already has tens of millions of subscribers to Amazon Prime. But Amazon wants more, and it's using a Transparent-Golden Globes-themed promotion on Saturday to win them over.

A report surfaced last autumn estimating that as many as 50 million people were members of Amazon Prime, the $99-per-year subscription service that includes two-day shipping on most purchases and unlimited streaming of video and music content. Mind you, that was before the 2014 holiday shopping season, during which Amazon reported some 10 million new members had signed up for Prime.

Previous studies have indicated that Amazon actually loses money on Prime due to all the shipping costs incurred by frequent shoppers. Yet Prime is undeniably a powerful revenue driver for the world’s largest retailer, because of the tendency of subscribers to make nearly all of their online purchases at Amazon once they’ve paid for a membership. Hence Amazon’s relentless push to boost Prime subscriptions at any and every opportunity.

And hence the latest Amazon promotion, which on Saturday grants everyone with an Internet connection free streaming of Transparent, the ground-breaking Golden Globe-winning comedy normally only available to Prime subscribers. Besides celebrating the success of Transparent and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor at the Golden Globes, the idea of airing the show for all to see is surely also a pitch to snag more Prime members. The implicit sales pitch being: Just look at the kinds of things you’d get to watch regularly if you were a Prime member!

What’s more, Amazon is giving Prime extra appeal by knocking the usual $99 price of a subscription down to $72 on Saturday, January 24. Why 72? Again, it has to do with the Golden Globes—the most recent awards were the 72nd in history.

TIME Companies

Expedia Snaps Up Travelocity for $280 Million

The Expedia Inc. homepage and logo.
The Expedia Inc. homepage and logo. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Another travel site Orbitz is reportedly looking for a buyer as well

Two major travel sites are about to be under the same corporate umbrella.

Expedia will be purchasing rival Travelocity for $280 million in cash. The two sites have been working together since 2013, when they signed a marketing agreement allowing Travelocity access to Expedia’s supply and customer service program in exchange for Expedia powering the technology platforms for Travelocity’s websites in the US and Canada.

Travelocity is currently owned by travel technology company Sabre. Sabre also owns Sabre Airline Solutions, Sabre Travel Network, and the Sabre Hospitality Network. Expedia’s brand portfolio includes the popular Expedia.com, plus other properties including Hotels.com and Hotwire.com.

More deals could be coming in the online travel booking arena. Orbitz is said to be actively looking for a buyer.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

MONEY online shopping

The Old-School Way J.C. Penney Is Taking Aim at Amazon

Customers shop at the J.C. Penney Co. store inside the Glendale Galleria shopping center in Glendale, California.
Customers shop at the J.C. Penney Co. store inside the Glendale Galleria shopping center in Glendale, California. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Thanks to smartphones and screens available at every turn, it's easier than ever for shoppers to browse in one place and buy in another. And now the old-fashioned mail catalog is making a comeback.

For years, retailers have been trying to figure out how to best cope with the “omniconsumer.” Regardless of whether you’ve heard of the term or not, you probably are one. The term refers to shoppers who use all possible channels—online, in store, and sometimes even via catalog phone order—for the purposes of browsing, researching, and buying.

Several years ago, the biggest threat to the retail world arose from the trend of “showrooming,” or the act of browsing products in stores before ultimately purchasing them online for a lower price, typically at Amazon. The phenomenon led many retailers to expand price-matching policies to better compete with Amazon; the fact that Amazon is no longer assumed to always have the cheapest prices has hurt sales at the world’s largest e-retailer as well. The more recent flipside to showrooming has been “webrooming,” which entails browsing products online (often at Amazon) before ultimately purchasing them in a store.

A Boston Globe story published during the 2014 holiday shopping season offered a glimpse of the prototypical webroomer:

“I usually go online to check prices and narrow down what I want to get,” said Kameko Lindsay, a 21-year-old nursing student at Northeastern University. “Then I go to the store and see what I can find. For me, I’d rather touch things before I buy.”

Obviously, this kind of behavior causes havoc for Amazon and other pure online players. A recent Motley Fool post explored how webrooming and other trends—including the option to purchase online and pick up in a store—have been hurting Amazon. It’s still by far the world’s largest e-retailer, but it has slowly been losing market share, with online sales growth at Home Depot, Costco, Walmart, and others outpacing Amazon. And webrooming appears to be getting more common. A survey from Accenture finds that 78% of consumers have engaged in webrooming, versus 72% who say they’ve showroomed. In a similar poll from 2013, 65% of shoppers said they’d be likely to webroom, versus 62% who said they would showroom.

That’s only one example of how tech is tweaking shopper behavior and altering the retail landscape accordingly. Another, arguably more surprising example comes from an old-fashioned retailer—J.C. Penney— bringing back an equally old-fashioned sales platform: the print catalog. As the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, in March J.C. Penney will start mailing out 120-page glossy catalogs to customers, even though the struggling retailer hasn’t sent one out since 2010, and catalog mailings in general have fallen dramatically.

What’s spurring J.C. Penney’s renewed interest in catalogs is that, curiously, they seem to boost online sales. Kurt Salmon, the retail consultancy firm, notes that 31% of consumers have a print catalog handy at the time they’re making online purchases. What’s more, there’s some indication that people who purchase with the aid of catalogs tend to spend more.

MONEY

275,000+ Free Tickets to Selma Available for Students

SELMA, from left: Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo, as Martin Luther King Jr., Andre Holland, Stephan James, 2014.
From left: Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo (as Martin Luther King, Jr.), Andre Holland and Stephan James in a scene from Selma. Atsushi Nishijima—Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

A "Selma for Students" campaign has raised enough money to allow hundreds of thousands of American middle and high school students to see the Martin Luther King, Jr., biopic Selma for free.

The critically acclaimed civil rights drama Selma may not have gotten quite the recognition some feel it deserved by the Academy of Motion Pictures, but a nationwide movement called “Selma for Students” is ensuring that the movie isn’t overlooked at theaters.

The program allows 7th, 8th, and 9th graders to receive free tickets to Selma at participating theaters around the country, including four apiece in cities like Baltimore, Nashville, and New Orleans, and at 11 movie houses in the San Francisco Bay area. The requirements differ slightly from city to city—some give free admission for high school students no matter what the grade—but in general, all you need to do to get a complimentary ticket is to show a student ID, report card, or some other proof of being a student at a participating theater’s box office.

As the Washington Post reported, the idea for “Selma for Students” was born in New York City, where African-American business leaders joined together in early January to create a fund allowing some 27,000 students in the city to view Selma for free. Roughly two dozen other cities have since joined the cause.

In St. Louis, for instance, local efforts are making it possible for some 6,250 teenagers to see the film for free. “It is important that St. Louis students are informed about this moment in history and its connections to the challenges they face today,” Reverend Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a partner in the “Selma for Students” campaign in the city, said via press release. “We believe this experience will nurture civic engagement among young people and give them hope that systemic change is possible through cooperative, intentional, and well-planned efforts.”

Altogether, it’s being estimated that more than 275,000 American students around the country will be able to get free admission to the movie, with most attending over the long Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend.

A limited number of tickets are being given away for each theater, and as of Friday afternoon several locations were already “sold out,” including all of New York City and Philadelphia, and all but a few of the participating Regal Cinemas around the country. All who watch the movie are encouraged to share images and responses on social media using the hashtag #SelmaforStudents.

MONEY deals

Two-for-One Ice Cream Promo Encourages You to Ditch New Year Resolutions

Ice Cream cone filled with Maple Ice Cream Graham Crackers Skor Bar in Dark Chocolate and Skor Cone at Marble Slab Creamery.
A cone at Marble Slab Creamery, which is offering two-for-one ice cream on National Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day . Rick Eglinton—The Toronto Star via Getty Image

Marble Slab and MaggieMoo's are offering a special buy one, get one free ice cream deal on Saturday, January 17, which happens to be National Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day.

Sister ice cream franchises Marble Slab Creamery and Maggie Moo’s are “celebrating” National Ditch Your Resolutions Day—one of the many fake holidays that fill up the calendar nowadays, this one supposedly based on the premise that January 17 is the most common day for people to give up on resolutions—with a special two-for-one ice cream promotion. To participate, just go into a MaggieMoo’s or Marble Slab on Saturday, and humbly (or proudly) announce that you’re too weak to keep your resolve for more than a couple of weeks into the new year.

“All customers who declare ‘I’m ditching my New Year’s resolution’ will receive the offer,” a press release from the ice cream chains explains.

The shops have periodically been promoting the “Ditch” deal on social media since the new year began, with photos of banana splits and phrases such as “MAKE THIS YOUR YEAR TO EAT MORE CHOCOLATE.” The posts have prompted comments like these on Facebook:

I gained a pound just looking at this!

There goes my diet…lol

cheat night?!?!?

For those who aspire to be strong-willed enough to make their resolutions stick, we’ve offered plenty of tips to help the cause, no matter if you’re resolving to save more money or ease off the sweets. If you’re aiming to do the latter, one obvious strategy is to stay away from ice cream shops, especially when they’re hosting two-for-one promotions.

One common piece of advice for keeping resolutions is to enlist a friend, either by asking them to pledge to reach the same goals as you or simply by making them aware of your goals, with the hope that they’ll help keep you on track.

On the other hand, hey, if you’re going to cave on your resolution by digging into some ice cream on Saturday—with unlimited mix-ins, by the way—this too is an opportunity to involve a buddy. That way, at least you won’t eat both of the two-for-one ice creams yourself.

TIME Companies

BlackBerry Stock Surges on Report That Samsung Wants To Buy It

Blackberry Samsung Acquisition Talks, Stock
A Blackberry Bold smartphone and a Samsung Galaxy Note phablet are displayed in this illustration photo in Hong Kong on Jan. 3, 2013. Bobby Yip—Reuters

But BlackBerry has since denied that report

BlackBerry’s stock surged over 30% to $12.78 Wednesday afternoon after a report claimed Samsung recently approached it about an acquisition deal. The climb marked the beleaguered BlackBerry’s highest point since June 2013.

Executives from Samsung and BlackBerry met privately last week to discuss the transaction, according to a Reuters report citing an unnamed source. Documents seen by Reuters indicated Samsung proposed a price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share, which would value BlackBerry at $6 to $7.5 billion.

BlackBerry denied the Reuters report late Wednesday afternoon. “BlackBerry has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry,” the company told Business Insider, sending its stock plummeting in after-hours trading. Samsung has not made a statement on the report.

Samsung and BlackBerry late last year signed a deal to bring BlackBerry’s security features to Samsung’s Android-powered phones.

[Reuters]

MONEY Fast Food

Fast Food Is Going to War Over These Three Menu Items

Burger King, Las Vegas airport, Nevada
Kumar Sriskandan—Alamy

Chicken nugget deals are incredibly cheap at fast food restaurants right now, and coffee promotions are cheaper still. Competition over breakfast sandwiches is white hot too.

Fast food’s biggest players will always compete over burgers, low-price value menu deals, and limited-time-only items that pop up seasonally. (Speaking of which, it’s getting close to Shamrock Shake time at McDonald’s.) Lately, though, the competition has gotten particularly focused, and particularly tough, concerning these three menu categories.

Chicken Nuggets
This week, Burger King kicked off a fierce nugget competition, offering a 10-piece chicken nugget order for just $1.49, roughly half the usual menu price. Or rather, it reintroduced the deal, which it also launched onto the scene for a limited period last fall. At the time, Burger King described the 15¢ nugget promotion “an aggressive deal rivaling anything our competition has ever done.”

That competition notably includes McDonald’s, which periodically offers a promotional deal at most locations of 20 nuggets for $4.99 and 50 for $9.99. The latter breaks down to a cost of 20¢ per nugget.

(NOTE: 20-piece and 50-piece nugget orders are intended to be shared, not consumed by a single customer in one sitting. One 40-year-old Daily Beast writer can attest to this after voluntarily taking on the highly inadvisable, 2,375-calorie challenge of eating 50 McDonald’s nuggets by himself. Inevitably, the task involved a run for the bathroom mid-challenge, perhaps because “digestive enzymes may be making me hallucinate, or maybe the salt and fat overload is draining my endorphins dry.”)

Coffee
Most fast-food promotional offers are created with the purpose of driving traffic into restaurants early and often. So it especially makes sense for quick-serve restaurants to pump up promotions on items that customers crave at all hours of the day. In today’s world, there’s no better item than coffee, which people will drink morning, afternoon, and night, and which comes with the added bonus of being pretty darn cheap to brew. Hence, the ongoing free coffee promotions at McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts dueling for customers in certain parts of the country.

Coffee deals are hot right now at convenience stores for largely the same reasons: They draw in customers, which is a much tougher sell in the winter because it’s cold and folks tend to want to stay home or at least not get out of their cars. Cumberland Farms, for instance, is heavily promoting its coffee, which sells for 99¢ in any size, while 7-Eleven has a changing roster of deals including two donuts and a coffee for $2 and buy six coffees and the seventh is free for customers using its app.

Breakfast Sandwiches
The battle for fast food breakfast customers got heated in early 2014 with the introduction of Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco, and it hasn’t really cooled off. A big reason why fast food giants are duking it out over breakfast with particular ferocity is that for years breakfast has been the only meal time that has experienced regular growth at quick-serve restaurants, which offer convenient, on-the-go foods to help on-the-go Americans start their day.

This is why Taco Bell jumped into the breakfast scene nationally last year, and why other players such as Chick-fil-A, Taco John’s, and White Castle expanded or began exploring breakfast menus too. In almost all cases, breakfast items focus on the sandwich because it is hand-held and can be eaten easily behind the wheel—a feature that’s especially important during breakfast hours, when the typical customer is trying to get somewhere while fueling up for the day. The latest entrant into the breakfast sandwich wars is the French Toaster, an egg-cheese-and-meat mix bookended by two pieces of French toast from Sonic. A MarketWatch story declared that “the new battleground in the world of fast food is the breakfast sandwich,” and that the portability of the French Toaster and other breakfast sandwiches is essential for their success.

MONEY Transportation

Uber Just Cut Prices in These 48 Cities

Cloud Gate and Millennium Park, Chicago, IL
Uber is modeling its current price cuts on previous reductions in Chicago, where the average fare dropped nearly 25%. Hisham Ibrahim—Getty Images

Starting on Friday, rates dropped for Uber ridesharing services in four dozen U.S. cities, and the cuts will stay in effect through the slow winter season.

Uber just announced that as of Friday, January 9, customer fares will be cut in 48 cities where its rideshare service is fairly new to the market, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Modesto, Orlando, Spokane, and Tulsa.

It’s unclear how much rates will be cut, but Uber is presenting its previous price-slicing efforts in Chicago as an example of how lowering fares can be a win-win for riders and drivers alike. The theory seems counterintuitive: If riders are paying less, then drivers must also be making less money, right? Not necessarily, Uber claims.

In December 2014, the average Uber fare in Chicago was $11, or 23% less than the average in the same month a year earlier ($14.25). Nonetheless, because of fare cuts and/or increased awareness of the service, the average number of rides per hour for drivers shot up 45% over that same time span (from 1.34 to 1.94). Drivers’ average hourly bookings reportedly rose as well, from $19.10 to $21.34.

Then again, when Uber drivers book more rides, they’re logging more mileage on the road and incurring all of those related costs. So this might not be quite the moneymaker for drivers it’s being presented as. In the long run, the goal is for price cuts to win over new customers and get them in the habit of using Uber. Then, when the slow winter season is over, Uber can raise fares—and periodically raise them in a major way, via surge pricing at peak demand times—thereby reaping more cash for drivers and the company alike.

Uber is saying that price cuts should help drivers in the short run too. “We’re so confident in the earnings gains drivers will see that we’re making earnings guarantees in every city where we’re cutting prices,” the company’s announcement stated. “We feel that it is important for drivers to have this kind of certainty and comfort going into a price cut.”

So feel free to take advantage of cheaper Uber trips this winter without worrying that drivers are being squeezed. Just don’t expect the fares to stay cheap forever.

MONEY Leisure

Right Now Is the Best—and Cheapest!—Time to Learn to Ski

A male snowboarder ripping powder in Idaho.
Patrick Orton—Getty Images

In January, ski resorts around the country offer incredibly cheap packages for lessons and rentals—often under $30 per day, occasionally totally free. And sometimes you wind up with a free season pass.

If you’ve ever considered getting into skiing or snowboarding, then you should especially consider doing so in January. With the exception of the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, January is generally a slow time for skiing, as there’s a lull in between the busy Christmas and Spring Break periods. So it’s a perfect time for mom-and-pop ski hills and huge destination resorts alike to roll out their very best promotions to entice novices into picking up skiing or snowboarding (or maybe both). And that’s just what they do, as the industry has collectively dubbed January the official Ski and Snowboard Month.

Click on that link for a long list of ski lesson specials around the country in January. So long as you live somewhere remotely hilly and snowy (sorry Florida), there’s probably a good offer within proximity to your neck of the woods.

The offers are literally and figuratively all over the map. One of the best values and most comprehensive programs is coordinated by Ski Vermont. Nearly all member resorts that belong to the state ski association, including big industry players like Killington, Mount Snow, Stratton, and Stowe, offer a beginner package with lessons, lift ticket, and rentals for just $29 on most days (not available over the holiday weekend). What’s more, Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont has a special granting lessons, rentals, and a lift ticket for the beginner area totally for free on Monday, January 19.

Likewise, ski mountains all over New Hampshire offer a similar lessons-lift-ticket-rental package for $29 in January, while the standard January promotion price for beginners in world-class Utah is $45. Then there are dozens and dozens of individual resorts around the country offering their own special deal, like a $29 beginner package from Sunday River in Maine and a $69 deal for Mammoth Mountain in California. The latter may not seem quite as good a bargain as other offers, but bear in mind that what’s included—one-day lift ticket plus a beginner group lesson and rentals—normally costs $190. So participants are saving $121.

There are other freebies too. Many resorts, including Bromley, Killington, Sunday River, Sugarloaf (Maine), Schweitzer (Idaho), Liberty Mountain (Pennsylvania), and Wachusett (Massachusetts) have special “bring a friend” promotions, in which one or more lift tickets is provided free when a newbie signs up for a lessons package.

Finally, there are resorts like Mt. Spokane in Washington and Brian Head in Utah, which offer bonuses after the basic lesson package is completed. At the former, after buying a $99 three-day package, skiers and boarders can purchase a pass valid for the entire rest of the season for another $99. At the latter, beginners who finish a three-day learning package (price: $199) receive a lift pass good for the rest of the season at no extra charge, plus the option of buying a pass for the 2015-2016 season at 50% off.

MONEY freebies

Free Coffee on Mondays at McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts

McCafe coffee
Mark Lennihan—AP

Case of the Mondays? At least there's free coffee to perk up your day.

In select parts of the country, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are trying to draw in customers and boost business by promising a free caffeine fix on the dreariest day of the work week. Both fast food chains have kicked off the new year with promotions giving away free coffee on Mondays. They’re limited-time offers, and the deal isn’t available in all markets, but in the case of many McDonald’s locations, customers can expect free coffee every single Monday throughout the entirety of 2015.

For instance, McDonald’s restaurants in the greater Washington, D.C., region, which includes parts of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, are giving away one free small coffee per customer—hot or iced, no purchase required, even for drive-thru visits—on every Monday this year. A spokesperson for McDonald’s told us the company is aware of locations in the following areas that are giving away free coffee on Mondays:

Washington, D.C.
Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Virginia
Indianapolis/Lafayette, Indiana
South Bend/Ft. Wayne, Indiana
Cincinnati, Ohio
Austin, Texas

Each region determines the particulars of its coffee giveaway, and not all are making the promotion available for a full 12 months. In central Indiana, for instance, free coffee Mondays extend only through June 1.

And why isn’t the free coffee promotion available nationwide, like McDonald’s did for two-week stints a couple of times in 2014? Apparently McDonald’s in many parts of the country feel like it’s not in their best interests to give away coffee. “The markets determine what is best for their customers and customize their offers accordingly,” the McDonald’s spokesperson explained.

Likewise, Dunkin’ Donuts appears to be strategically limiting its coffee giveaway to areas where business could use a bump locally—specifically, the Midwest. Understandably, customers in the Northeast, where DD blankets the landscape, are out of luck and must continue paying for their coffee.

A representative for Dunkin’ Donuts confirmed that, among other locations, DDs in the following cities are giving away one free coffee per customer on Mondays, through January 19 only:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
Topeka, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Rochester, Minnesota
Kansas City, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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