In a week that saw United Airlines (UAL) place dead last in a customer service ranking of the major airlines, a picture surfaced that gives some idea of how the airline earned that dubious distinction.
A member of travel forum FlyerTalk posted this picture, which he says he snapped in the lavatory of a United Airlines flight.
"Apparently, they ran out in one lav half-way home and couldn't bother to transfer a roll from another," writes the poster. As you can see, a member of the flight crew seems to have hacked together a holder out of duct tape and filled it with cocktail napkins -- which, appropriately enough, bear the slogan "Fly by the tips of your fingers."
And this was no short flight, either: He notes that this took place on a San Francisco-to-London trip. While having to use napkins as toilet paper isn't the end of the world, it's still hard to imagine an airline like JetBlue (JBLU) running out of toilet paper and having to resort to such college-dorm-style innovation.
Filed under: Technology
By Alex Planes
Can you believe that it's only been five years since the world stopped using software and switched to apps? The distinction is pretty subtle, but nonetheless important -- without a proliferation of diverse apps across mobile ecosystems, the smartphone revolution might have been turned back, or at least held in check for some time. The past five years have seen quite a bit of technological innovation, but only a few of these developments, including apps, have truly taken hold in popular culture.
The following list will take you through five of the top new technological breakthroughs that have become the biggest hits with consumers. You'll probably be familiar with them all, but the sheer speed at which they've captured the public's imagination (and its spending money) might surprise you.
Filed under: Investing
By Craig Mellow
Prospects for emerging markets have gone from bad to worse over the past few weeks. The world investing establishment is gripped, rightly or wrongly, by the conviction that the US Federal Reserve Bank plans to ratchet down its massive US bond-buying soon. That will push up the interest rate on T-bills, make a range of alternative investments less attractive by comparison and, more to the point for emerging-market equities, lift the dollar relative to most second-tier currencies.
Since currency is destiny to a large extent when buying stocks overseas, investors have bailed out of an emerging-market space that was already underperforming the US market. The popular iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EEM) has dropped 10% in the past month, wiping out all its gains over the past year.
Here are five areas of your house that really do need to be fixed by the pros:
By Bruce Watson
Can consumers protect themselves from the NSA's domestic spying operations?
As more information emerges, the answer seems to be an emphatic "no." On Monday, whistleblower Edward Snowden explained that the NSA routinely engages in "incidental" collection of e-mails and the storing of millions of private messages indefinitely. He alleged that analysts regularly view this information, even if they do not have warrants to do so.
Snowden's claims seem to jibe with federal law as it is currently written. Because of 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA can quite possibly justify listening into almost any domestic conversation or gaining access to almost any domestic e-mail. As Salon's Roxanne Palmer explained on Tuesday, the actual mechanisms for recording data are remarkably simple and commonplace. Even easier if, as the NSA document obtained by The Washington Post claimed, PRISM entails "collection directly from the servers" of major internet companies. The nine named companies -- including Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube and AOL (the parent company of DailyFinance) -- have denied the claim, but such data collection is also covered by the FISA Amendments Act, which legally requires companies to grant the government access to their servers.
This guy should probably look into a new line of work.
A viral video making the rounds this week shows an air-freight handler at Guangzhou Airport in China loading up a cargo plane in the most careless way possible. Over the course of the four-minute video, the handler tosses parcels in the general direction of a conveyor belt, with only about half of the boxes reaching their intended target and the rest tumbling to the tarmac.
The video was first posted by Australian YouTube user Mark Bridgman a year ago, but it's gone viral this week.
It's not entirely clear what's happening here. This isn't a simple case of an overworked employee rushing to finish his work as quickly as possible -- if anything, his careless approach is going to make things take even longer, as he has to retrieve all the packages that fall onto the tarmac. Has he always been this bad at his job, or has the drudgery gotten to him? Is he just having a bad day? Is he drunk?
By Bruce Watson
Makeup can be dangerous.
Looking at the rows of toners and powders, lipsticks and rouges packing the corner drug store, cosmetics seem innocent enough. But under the bright colors and attractive packaging, the sex appeal and huge advertising budgets, dangers lurk -- industrial solvents and carcinogens, deadly metals and petroleum distillates. And even beyond the health dangers, there are environmental worries -- concerns about where these ingredients come from and what their extraction does to the Earth.
On the other hand, it wasn't always this way. Sure, the ancient Romans sometimes mixed lead with their cosmetics, and 19th century Americans occasionally killed whales to get the raw ingredients for their perfumes. But, on the whole, cosmetics and skincare have gotten a lot less friendly over the past few decades.
Luckily, many of the classic cosmetics and skincare products your grandmother used are still going strong today. Here are nine of our favorite brands that are gentle on your wallet and will leave your skin and hair feeling great.
By Ken Ilungas, Special to The Motley Fool
On the first night I tried to sleep in my van, I was lying in my sleeping bag sprawled out on the backseat, parked in a mostly empty Walmart parking lot. I'd wake up every 15 minutes because I was nervous that the security guard driving past my van would knock on my door and make me leave.
My new home had 60 square feet and four wheels. While most people would consider living in a van an embarrassment, a low point, or even a "rock bottom," it would -- though I didn't realize it then -- turn out to be the greatest financial decision I'd ever made.
No one would end up waking me up in the Walmart lot, and, over the next two years, almost all of my other fears would prove to be entirely unfounded.
Debt-free; Dirt Poor
In January 2009, when I'd decided to move into the van, I was nearly broke. I had just $4,000 in the bank and no possessions other than a laptop, camera, cellphone and a suitcase full of clothes and a backpack full of camping gear.
I had next to nothing because I'd just finished paying off my $32,000 undergraduate school debt. Still, after two-and-a-half years of working, I wanted nothing more than to go back to school and get my master's degree in liberal studies at Duke University. But how could I afford tuition and not go back into debt?
My answer: a $1,500 '94 Ford Econoline.
I'd cook in it, sleep in it, study in it, and live in it. I'd do whatever it would take not to go into debt again.
A Nation of Potential Van Dwellers
I'm not the only student in America struggling with the high cost of education.
Currently, there are over 36 million debtors saddled with more than $1 trillion in student debt. In 2011, two-thirds of graduating students left with an average $26,600 in debt.
But the problem isn't always tuition. The enormous cost of room and board -- averaging $8,500 a year for students living on campus -- can set students back just as much. For freshmen at Duke University, which would be my graduate school, the cheapest dorm option is $5,464 an academic year. The cheapest meal plan is $5,540 an academic year, or $27 a day.
By living in a van, I figured, I could reduce (if not entirely do away with) many of the costs that are drowning students in seas of red ink. And if I picked an affordable graduate program, then, well, maybe I could leave school with a debt-free degree.
Amazingly, it worked. This is how I did it:
By Caroline Bennett
Salacious shopping sprees, supersized bar tabs and parties that run well into seven-figure territory dominate the celeb gossip headlines. But not all of Hollywood's elite burn through money like it's going out of style.
There are some stars who have excellent financial track records, and you don't have to have a celebrity-sized paycheck to follow their lead. From saving money to making smart investments, these actresses are great role models for financial advice that anyone can use. Here's how they do it.
Filed under: Investing
By M. Joy Hayes, PhD
Think Facebook (FB) executives are overpaid? Join the club.
A close review of Facebook's 2013 proxy voting results suggests that most average outside shareholders are unhappy with Facebook's executive compensation system.
Unfortunately, there's nothing they can do about it.
Investors: You've Been Out-Classed
Facebook's current capital structure essentially gives insiders total control over matters brought to shareholders for a vote., because Facebook has two classes of stock -- a dual-class voting structure.