MONEY Food & Drink

Why Paying More for Imported Beers Is a Big Waste of Money

Rene van den Berg—Alamy

Many "imports" aren't imported from anywhere.

A recently settled lawsuit means that customers who have purchased Beck’s beer in recent years may be entitled to refunds—up to $50 for purchases made since 2011. Customers who don’t have receipts can receive up to $12; to get a refund higher than that, receipts are necessary.

The settlement should serve as yet another alert to beer drinkers that “imports” such as Beck’s, Kirin, Bass Ale, and Foster’s—which are perceived to originate in Germany, Japan, England, and Australia, respectively—are actually brewed right here in the U.S. of A.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the settlement arose from a class-action suit filed in Florida against beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of the Beck’s brand, over claims that consumers were deceived into thinking that the Beck’s beer they were buying was imported from Germany. Beck’s packaging includes phrases like “Germany Quality” and “Originated in Bremen, Germany.” In fact, the Beck’s sold in the U.S. has been brewed in Missouri for years.

The settlement comes a few months after a similar agreement regarding Kirin, another Anheuser-Busch product that’s seemingly imported but is also made in the U.S. In a settlement reached in January, the beer company agreed to pay up to $50 per household purchasing the faux Japanese brew, though at the same time AB InBev released a statement maintaining, “We believe our labeling, packaging and marketing of Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light have always been truthful.”

The larger truth, however, is that over the past decade or so imports—faux or genuine—have rapidly lost their status as the best brews money can buy. How this happened is that firstly, as pointed out above, many popular “imports” stopped being imported and began being brewed in the U.S. Many beer enthusiasts insist that the taste of the Bass Pale Ale brewed in Baldwinsville, N.Y., for instance, is vastly inferior to the truly English-made product of old.

Secondly, a little thing called craft brewing completely changed the beer scene in America and beyond. Craft beer production in the U.S. was up 42% last year, and craft beer sales surpassed 10% of the overall beer market in 2014 for the first time ever. Craft brews accounted for only 5% of sales as recently as 2010.

What’s more, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft beer interests, America exported $100 million worth of craft beer in 2014, an increase of 36% year over year. Regions renowned for great beer traditions, including Germany and much of western Europe, have been welcoming American craft beers with open arms. And the reason this is so is that smaller labels have consistently delivered fresher and more interesting flavors than any macro brew, and that America’s robust and creative craft brewing scene is viewed as the envy of the world.

Considering how beer-loving nations around the globe are eager to import American craft beer because of its superior taste and quality, why would American beer enthusiasts pay extra for beer that seems to be imported from somewhere else? Especially when in fact this beer is brewed in the same facilities that make the macro labels they disdain? Increasingly, the standard menu at bars and restaurants, in which imports are separated by higher prices (and presumably, higher quality) from American brews, seems out of touch with the times.

The point American beer lovers should take to heart is that there are many compelling reasons to drink local. Above all, if you’re going to pay a premium for beer, be sure that it’s based on the product’s taste, not because of some outdated idea about which countries have the best beer. This goes doubly in terms of supposedly upscale and high-quality “imports” that aren’t imported at all.

MONEY Advertising

Watch: Shark TV Fest Hilariously Admits It’s a Blatant Shark Week Rip-Off

On “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.
Aquavision TV Productions—National Geographic Channels On the Nat Geo Wild show “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.

"It's the same friggin' sharks anyway."

The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” has become a colossal event, not only in terms of being a ratings and marketing bonanza, but also in its role as the inspiration for a larger frenzy, so to speak, of shark-related merchandise, attractions, and entertainment.

Naturally, Discover Channel’s cable TV competitors have tried to get in on the sharktastic action with shark-related programming of their own. But no “Shark Week” imitator has done it quite as blatantly, or hilariously, as the Nat Geo Wild channel’s event dubbed “SharkFest,” which just so happens to kick off on Sunday, July 5, the same day as “Shark Week” begins.

AdWeek called attention to the new “SharkFest” promo, which features comedian Rory Scovel owning up to the way Nat Geo Wild is overtly trying to muddy the waters and steal “Shark Week’s” thunder. “We want you to confuse the two. And you will. And we don’t care—because it gets us ratings,” Scovel says. “We’re going to continue to do it” in the hopes that you “accidentally watch us.”

Most importantly, Scovel points out, viewers shouldn’t care whether they’re watching the sharks chomping seals and menacingly bumping up against shark cages on the Discovery Channel or Nat Geo Wild. “It’s the same friggin’ sharks anyways,” he says. “Sharks cannot sign an exclusive contract with a network … we’re pretty certain on that.”

Scovel then tosses out a couple awesomely lazy and honest slogans:

“SharkFest: Yeah, maybe it’s not our idea. Who cares? Just watch it.”

“SharkFest: It’s on the same time as the other thing. On Nat Geo Wild.”

Watch the whole promo here:

The ad isn’t just funny, though. It’s quite possibly brilliant. “The idea came up of being more transparent about viewer confusion during Shark Week. We thought it would be funny to own that and be playful with it,” Tyler Korba, Nat Geo Wild’s creative director for on-air marketing, explained at the PromaxBDA Brief blog. “If you can’t have fun doing TV, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Viewers are going to know the channel is ripping off “Shark Week,” so the thinking is it’s best to get that out of the way—and even poke fun at themselves. “It’s a little bit of aikido,” said Korba. “Once you’ve called it what it is, once you’ve owned it, you’ve turned a potentially awkward thing into a strength.”

TIME facebook

How Facebook is Trying To Make Better Mobile Ads stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Watch your back, TV

Facebook has mobile mostly figured out. At the beginning of the year, the category generated nearly three-quarters of the social networking company’s advertising revenue. But Zuckerberg’s execs are betting there’s still plenty of room for growth.

Facebook is currently developing new ad formats for mobile devices that “it hopes will deliver more immersive experiences for customers and greater value for advertisers,” according to the Wall Street Journal. For example, a prototype of the new offering allows marketers “to create fully-branded, interactive destinations within the Facebook environment, featuring full-screen video, product information and other content.”

That’s beneficial to advertisers because many mobile ad formats don’t work well on smaller devices, especially those that are essentially sized-down version of their desktop equivalents.

“We’re trying to give marketers a canvas that’s more engaging,” Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox told the Journal. “We’re working on creating things that seem weird at first, and then become invisible.”

The new ads may help Facebook keep users within its network, WSJ reporter Jack Marshall points out. The company could host content from marketers just as Facebook’s Instant Article program hosts content from media publishers, he writes.

On Tuesday, Cox will present the new ad format at the Cannes Lions ad festival in France. The company plans to work alongside advertisers, soliciting their input in order to perfect its product before taking it public. If successful, the strategy could help Facebook lure more advertising money away from TV and other venues.


Our National Robocalling Nightmare May Soon Be Over

robot using smartphone

Take that, spammers and robocallers!

In the phrase “unwanted robocall,” the word unwanted probably isn’t necessary. Is there any automated sales call that is actually wanted? Ever?

Earlier this year, 200,000 people signed a petition asking telecom companies to give customers the means to block commercial robocalls. They probably could have gotten tens of millions of such signatures with a little more time and outreach.

In any event, on Thursday, hallelujah, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a package that will make it much easier to put a stop to the extremely annoying and unwanted robocalls. The commission’s decision “affirmed consumers’ rights to control the calls they receive,” while also clarifying that it was fully legal for telephone companies to offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

“Complaints related to unwanted calls are the largest category of complaints received by the Commission, numbering more than 215,000 in 2014,” an FCC statement explained. (The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, reportedly received an astounding 3 million complaints about robocalls in 2014.) The new rules are intended to address consumer concerns by “closing loopholes and strengthening consumer protections already on the books,” according to the FCC.

Despite heavy lobbying from multiple industries on the pro-robocall and pro-spam side, the FCC ruled to uphold and clarify the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, while also bolstering the protections offered by the Do Not Call Registry. Specifically, the package affirmed:

• Phone service providers can offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

• Consumers can decide to opt out of robocalls at any time.

• The same protections and opt-out rights regarding telemarketing messages apply to text messages as well as calls to wireless and landline phones.

A group of consumer advocates jointly applauded the measure as soon as it was announced. “We applaud the FCC for holding the line to keep the plague of unwanted robocalls from becoming even worse,” said Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “Since the FCC has now clarified that telephone companies can block these types of calls, we expect the companies to act quickly to implement blocking options for their customers.”

On the other hand, speaking on behalf of the business community, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that the FCC’s move could lead to more class-action lawsuits against companies, which would “likely lead to increased costs for consumers.”

Or perhaps businesses could simply stop robocalling and avoid lawsuits entirely.


8 Epic Business Failures with Donald Trump’s Name on Them

Donald Trump
Ian MacNicol—Getty Images Donald Trump

If the Trump presidential campaign fails, it won't be the Donald's first misfire.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump threw his name into the ring as an official candidate for president in 2016. “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors,” Trump explained of his candidacy, before adding a heaping dose of trademark bluster: “I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

As for why he’s running, Trump pointed to his business sense and declared, “We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again.”

Yet time and again over the years, the Trump brand has been featured in many embarrassing high-profile flops in the business world. Here are some of the misfires attached to the “Trump” name.

Trump Shuttle
In 1989 the Eastern Air Shuttle was reborn as the Trump Shuttle, complete with a large “T” on the tails of the planes and—no joke—”gold lavatory fixtures.” The goal was to create a top-notch luxury flight service—they even paired with a company that rented laptops, which was cutting edge at the time—but the operation was hemorrhaging cash within weeks and was completely out of business by 1992.

Trump: The Game
The original catchphrase for the Monopoly-like Trump board game introduced in 1989 was the Trumpism “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!” Sales were underwhelming, to put it mildly. But after Trump became a cultural phenomenon in the reality TV show “The Apprentice,” the game was back on the market featuring a new expression: “You’re fired!”

Trump Magazine
“The Trump Brand evokes elegance and TRUMP Magazine will reflect the passions of its affluent readership by tapping into a rich cultural tapestry,” explained a 2007 press release introducing Trump Magazine. A year and a half later, the quarterly periodical, billed as a “highly anticipated ‘must read’ among VIPs and influencers,” had ceased publication.
Billed as his “biggest venture to date in the $80 billion online travel industry,” Donald Trump introduced this travel search engine powered by Travelocity in 2006. The site was supposed to host “Trump Picks” and “Trump Deals,” and it was accompanied by the introduction of The Donald’s “first-ever email address” ( which he would be using to “offer travel tips and advice.” The site was shut down a year later.

Trump Casinos
The Atlantic City casino Trump Plaza, which was built in the 1980s at a cost of $210 million, was sold off at the “fire sale price” of $20 million in 2013, not long before several casinos shut down in the fading gambling destination. Trump insists that he cashed out the vast majority of his interests in the Trump Plaza and nearby Trump Taj Mahal long before Atlantic City property values tanked, but earlier this year he reached an agreement to keep his name on them.

Trump Mortgage
“Donald Trump is putting the suit and tie back in the mortgage business,” a 2006 press release explained of his brand new venture, Trump Mortgage. Whatever that means. Less than two years later, the suit and tie were back in the closet, or perhaps up for sale at the consignment store, so to speak, as Trump Mortgage closed up shop. Trump speedily downplayed the venture as well, saying, “The mortgage business is not a business I particularly liked or wanted to be part of in a very big way.”

Trump Steaks
AdAge described Trump Steaks, featured on the June 2007 cover of the Sharper Image catalogue, as like “a ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoof, but it’s not.”

Trump Vodka
Donald Trump made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t drink. Nonetheless, a decade ago he rolled out Trump Vodka and promised it would be “a major player in the vodka arena” because “it’s a superb product and it’s beautifully packaged,” and “there’s nobody who markets better in the luxury category than Donald Trump.” This is one “major player” that disappeared from the marketplace several years ago.


Why NASCAR Races Now Feature DJs, Foam Parties & Go Karts

Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John's Chevrolet, lead the field to a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan.
Jerry Markland—Getty Images A scene from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

It's all about turning millennials into fans.

The prototypical “NASCAR dad” got a lot of attention in the late ’90s and early ’00s, when political campaigns—and often, advertising and marketing campaigns—were shaped to win over this large and important middle-class, conservative demographic. The problem, from NASCAR’s point of view, is that the once-potent population of NASCAR dads has gotten both older and smaller, and for a long time it’s looked like their offspring had no interest in becoming NASCAR kids.

Thanks to “a whole host of social changes,” most obviously including technology, how people interact, and ever-shortening attention spans, “we just have not seen the generational pass on of motorsports that we had with previous generations,” Roger Curtis, president of the Michigan International Speedway, told the Detroit Free Press recently.

The same old races and the same old sales pitches just hasn’t done the trick of winning over the interest (and money) of millennials. This shouldn’t be surprising considering that interest among young people in other “old man” sports like baseball, golf, fishing, and boxing has been plummeting.

But NASCAR’s sales and marketing forces haven’t been sitting around waiting to see the sport’s fan base quietly drive off into the sunset. Last weekend, NASCAR’s efforts to woo hipper, younger fans were on full display in Brooklyn—not the New York borough renowned for bearded hipsters, but Brooklyn, Mich., where the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) is located. Ticketholders for Sunday’s Sprint Cup NASCAR race at the MIS were automatically granted entrance to Keloorah, an on-site festival on Friday and Saturday nights featuring DJs, live music, video games, go karts, and foam and paint parties.

“The MIS team met last July and started to brainstorm the concept of using music as that common language to attract millennials,” Curtis explained to the Free Press. He said ticket sales for the June event were up 10% compared to last year, and that another Keloorah—taken from the Celtic word for “celebration”—will take place later this summer when MIS hosts a second NASCAR race the weekend of August 14-16.

Tim RobertsIAMDYNAMITE at Keloorah, Michigan International Speedway, 2015

Side attractions like Keloorah are part of a comprehensive campaign to convert millennials into fans. “Millennials are different from baby boomers,” says Eric Anderson, chair of the Kellogg School of Management’s marketing department, who coauthored a 2015 study on NASCAR’s marketing efforts. “They want social engagement and digital interaction with brands.”

After being warned of its approach into the territory of “dangerous irrelevance” in 2011, NASCAR has made significant changes to become hipper and more fan-friendly, including the expansion of cell phone service and wi-fi at race tracks that host only a couple events annually and encouraging drivers to engage with fans on social media to boost their star power. Also, while races were enough to draw out diehard olders fans, efforts have been underway to transform them into more well-rounded, fun, and exciting “events” that last an entire weekend and feature places to hang out and socialize into the wee hours of the night.

“NASCAR is competing not just for a share of customers’ auto dollars or sports dollars, but entertainment dollars,” says Anderson. The idea is that a mere race isn’t enough to bring millennials out to the track. But when there’s a bigger social occasion built around the race, the odds are much better that millennials will be intrigued.

MONEY consumer psychology

This Sneaky Packaging Trick That Jacks Up Prices Won’t Go Away

Jetta Productions—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

Stealth price hike is all too common.

Many products have, over the years, developed a reputation for misleading package sizes—think of those big bags of chips that are mostly filled with air. But that practice has typically been limited to purchases like snacks and laundry detergent.

Now, as more companies face rising costs and increased competitive pressure, consumers are encountering a wider range of products being sold in the same-sized packaging (and for similar prices)—but with much more empty space inside.

That space, termed “nonfunctional slack fill” (AKA the oldest trick in the book), is the cause for several pending lawsuits against consumer products companies, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In one suit, a rival is claiming that McCormick has been deceptive in reducing volume in its black pepper tins without changing the size of the tin itself. Its new tin that weighs 3 ounces, for example, is the same exact size as the old tin that held 4 ounces of pepper. Consumers would only notice they were getting less pepper if they looked very closely at the fine print, where the 4 was changed to a 3.

Similar ongoing lawsuits focus on packaging for Unilever PLC’s Axe deodorant and ConAgra’s Slim Jims. A suit against Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice was recently dismissed.

So what is a consumer to do?

Your best friend at the grocery or drug store is the unit price label along the shelf. Even if a package or container looks the same size, the price-per-ounce or unit will reveal the best bang for your buck — as well as a covert price hike.

Read Next: 10 Subliminal Retail Tricks You’re Probably Falling For

MONEY Advertising

The Yuccie and 2 Dozen Other Ways to Categorize Millennials

Raphye Alexius—Getty Images/Image Source

Meet the unholy mashup of hipster and yuppie, the Yuccie.

What do you get when you combine an insufferable hipster with a materialistic, ultra-ambitious yuppie? The Yuccie.

The term, freshly minted in a Mashable post by self-proclaimed Young Urban Creative (or Yuccie) David Infante, applies to a category of millennials who are “borne of suburban comfort, indoctrinated with the transcendent power of education, and infected by the conviction that not only do we deserve to pursue our dreams; we should profit from them.”

The Yuccie “is someone who is driven by the same careerist concerns as the yuppies might have been 20 years ago but with the creative drive of a hipster,” Infante explained to Yahoo. “They want to be known for their craftsmanship.”

The Mashable post includes a list of behaviors reminiscent of the old Jeff Foxworthy comedy bit (“You might be a redneck …”), only the checklist here is meant to identify the Yuccie. The individual who “takes boozy painting classes,” “avoids visible tattoos (not a prudent career move),” and “doesn’t like gentrification in theory; loves artisanal donuts in practice” may very well be a Yuccie. “Brogrammers hawking Uber for weed and Tinder for dogs,” as well as “boutique entrepreneurs shilling sustainably harvested bamboo sunglasses,” also fit the category, according to Infante.

The term “Yuccie” may be every bit as mockable as actual hipsters and Yuppies, but it’s hardly the first attempt at categorizing millennials based on their consumer habits and career ambitions. The acronym HENRY, or a person who is “High Earning, Not Rich Yet,” has been applied to up-and-coming millennials by none other than Goldman Sachs.

In 2012, Boston Consulting Group researchers identified “six distinct segments of U.S. millennials.” They are:

• Hip-ennials (29 percent)—“I can make the world a better place.”
• Millennial Moms (22 percent)—“I love to work out, travel, and pamper my baby.”
• Anti-Millennials (16 percent)—“I’m too busy taking care of my business and my family to worry about much else.”
• Gadget Gurus (13 percent)—“It’s a great day to be me.”
• Clean and Green Millennials (10 percent)—“I take care of myself and the world around me.”
• Old School Millennials (10 percent)—“Connecting on Facebook is too impersonal, let’s meet up for coffee instead!”, meanwhile, said that there are seven types of millennials:

• The Boomerang Baby (lives at home with parents)
• Perpetual Intern (underpaid, underemployed)
• The Grad Student
• The Idealist (active with nonprofits and crowdfunding)
• The Young Householder (loves decorating, being creative)
• The High-Tech Multitasker
• The Startup Kid (highly entrepreneurial)

Yet another list of millennial types was created last fall by the digital advertising firm Exponential. Apparently, it was impossible to limit the list to only a half-dozen or so categories. They came up with 12, including Nostalgics, Culinary Explorers, The Underemployed, The Collectors, and The Exuberants.

As you’d guess, there can be a fair amount of overlap with these groups. The individual Yuccie may very well be equal parts Idealist, Hip-ennial, Multitasker, and Exuberant, whatever that means.

Why are these categories created in the first place? Millennials aren’t regularly pigeonholed merely because it’s fun. Instead, millennials are placed in boxes by marketers and brand experts because understanding a demographic is the first step to being able to sell stuff to the people in it. The Boston Consulting Group presented its half-dozen millennial types with the straightforward goal of trying to “help companies improve the way they develop their marketing, brand, and business models.”

TIME Advertising

These Sausage Commercials Will Haunt Your Dreams

Television set
Getty Images

These spots are the latest entry in the terrify-the-consumer category

If you’ve watched “Mad Men,” or just know anything about the advertising industry, you know that ads historically have appealed to our aspirations. They are the stuff of our dreams. Lately, though, it seems like they want to be the stuff of our nightmares, too.

The latest entry in the terrify-the-consumer category comes from Johnsonville Sausage. The campaign is a serialized Father’s Day tale called “Bratfast in Bed,” depicting a Dad waking up to his family serving him brats. Things quickly get weird as he wakes up repeatedly, apparently from dreams-within-dreams: his sausage comes alive, his family turns into sausages, a giant anthropomorphized brat enters the room to serve him a smaller brat, he himself turns into a sausage, and so on.

The spots of full of perfect (well, in context) little details, as when the big humanoid sausage (which, by the way, has a sausage for a nose) makes little squeaking noises as it moves.

This is a far cry from Johnsonville advertising of yesteryear, which was as realist and pedestrian as could be. Spots from the ’90s might as well have been from the ’50s: Johnsonville eaters were depicted as regular guys who liked campin’ and fishin':

But everybody’s hopping on the surrealist bandwagon now. “Bratfast in Bed” is “basically sausage ‘Inception’,” Scott Bell, group creative director for Johnsonville’s agency, Droga5, told Adweek. “It’s one man’s journey.”

This campaign comes on the heels of Johnsonville’s equally weird (and generally funnier) “Family” campaign, wherein “non-traditional family” took on a new meaning:

TIME beauty

This Is the Country Where People Are The Happiest With the Way They Look

beauty happiness woman mexico
Getty Images

Mexicans, you're beautiful and you know it

Of all the peoples of the world, Mexicans are the happiest with their appearance.

Some 74% of Mexicans say they are “completely satisfied” or “fairly satisfied”with their appearance, according to a massive study by market research group GfK, which asked more than 27,000 people, aged 15 or over, in 22 countries around the world what they thought of themselves.

Turkey (71%) came in second, with Ukraine and Brazil in joint third place (both 65%). Also scoring highly are Spain (64%) and Germany and Argentina (both 62%), and the U.S. (60%).

But GfK’s wide-reaching survey also found out that many nationalities aren’t happy with their looks at all. The Japanese are the most unhappy, with 38% of Japanese people saying they are “not at all satisfied” or “not too satisfied,” followed by around 20% of British, Russians and South Koreans.

Perhaps breaking a few stereotypes, GfK found that teenagers are only marginally more self-critical than adults, with 16% of 15-19 year-olds being “not too satisfied” with their looks, compared to 13% for 20-59 year olds. Similarly, women were found to be only marginally more critical about themselves than men.

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