No winner in Friday night's drawing for the Mega Millions Lottery. That means Tuesday night's drawing is valued at $257 million ($139 million cash value). Mega Millions is played in 42 states and Washington DC. Chances of winning the big prize are 1 in 175.7 million.
Cyber Monday shopping:
Stories of people trying to work healthcare.gov for hours on end are extraordinary, considering how impatient consumers are with poorly functioning e-tail sites. While you're looking at CyberMonday sites, consider this:
A new LivePerson study of online shopping behavior finds online consumers want access to real-time help in an average of 76 seconds or they’ll seek alternatives away from the site. In layman’s terms: anything more than one minute and 16 seconds is too much of a hassle to place the order.
Reasons for abandoning a shopping cart:
(ranked in importance to shoppers)
--Difficulty in getting any help / customer service on the website, 35 percent
--Disruptive experience, 37 percent
--Technical issues, such as slow website or unavailable pages, 41 percent
--Want to ask a question --can't find the answer, 41 percent
--Complicated registration / login process, 43 percent
--Checkout problems, 45 percent
--Do not trust the website / security concerns, 53 percent
--Website difficult to navigate / can't find what I'm looking for, 53 percent
--Lack of information about product / service / delivery, 57 percent
--Unexpected delivery costs, 65 percent
Some have started calling it Grey Thursday now. Despite the online protests and cries that retailers were ruining Thanksgiving by opening on Thursday, it seems people like the idea of shopping right before, after, or even perhaps instead of, eating turkey with the family.
According to a Wal-Mart press release, Thanksgiving was a day of record-breaking sales, sales that were --note the language-- "bigger, better, faster, cheaper and safer than ever."
It seems Wal-Mart was in PR mode trying to control the inevitable flood of footage featuring humans trampling over each other, fighting with each other --and those videos started surfacing almost immediately. (See below) The retailer did over 10 million cash-register transactions between 6pm and 10pm Thursday alone.
It appears Thanksgiving openings ate into Black Friday sales. Foot traffic on Friday was down 11 percent from 2012. According to data released by the research firm ShopperTrak, shoppers spent $9.74 billion on Black Friday, a drop of 13.2 percent, the weakest gains in holiday spending since 2009.However, combined spending on Thursday and Friday rose 2.3 percent to $12.3 billion.
Cyber Monday may one day become a non-event.
There was lots of anecdotal evidence last Friday that suggested malls may have been a little bit emptier the day after Thanksgiving than normal, not just because of Thursday night openings, but the continuing increase of online purchases, which may have given shoppers plenty of reason to stay home rather than brave the crowds.
Online sales rose 20 percent on Thanksgiving and 19 percent on Black Friday. More optimistic data notes that online sales soared 39 percent Friday and 18 percent on Thanksgiving. Some of these online figures are misleading. Nearly 40 percent of all online traffic Friday was related to shopping. That doesn't mean an online purchase, however. Smartphones drove 25 percent of all online traffic on Black Friday but what that doesn't tell is is how many shoppers were using their Smartphones to track down deals at various brick-and-mortar stores as they trucked through the mall.
We'll have to wait and see what the marketing data wizards at ComScore report with sales over the next few days, although comScore is forecasting double-digit growth in both desktop e-commerce and m-commerce spending for the holiday season.
If you tried to do any Thanksgiving night shopping at the Sears in Plymouth, NH, you were out of luck. Franchise owner HOLLY CASSIANO rejected the head office order to open at 7 pm on Thanksgiving. "I value my employees enough that I wouldn't have them have to work on a day that's meant for family."
Customers didn't complain and even offered praise, although Cassiano was told she'll lose her bonus for the rest of the year. Her contract is up in a month and she plans to take Sears to court if the company takes her franchise agreement away.
Incidentally, Thanksgiving Day shopping wasn't a big issue in Rhode Island, Maine, or Massachusetts and never will be because it's illegal. The three New England states have "blue laws" dating back to colonial times that ban shopping on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And despite the efforts of retail groups that complain shoppers are crossing into other states, attempts to change the laws have gone nowhere, and residents say they're happy with the break from commercialism. Even some retailers who could open under exemptions have preferred to keep their doors shut on the day.
Americans aren't big fans of Thanksgiving shopping. Only 13 percent prefer stores to stay open, according to one poll, though other states seem unlikely to bring in New England-style bans, especially not in a time of 24/7 Internet shopping.
Stores that refuse to open on Thanksgiving: Costco, Nordstrom, the Burlington Coat Factory, BJ's Wholesale Club, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross. (Those last three are all owned by the same corporation
It may become a Thanksgiving tradition of its: The annual Black Friday Shopping Cattle Drive and Massacre Video extravaganza.
Fight videos emerged almost immediately on Friday morning, all from separate Wal-Marts. The first took place inside a Wal-Mart in Elkin, NC. A mob of people pushed, shoved and jostled for flat-screen TVs, when all of a sudden tensions topped the threshold and a small fight broke out. One man put down his TV to pick up and slam another man, who might have been attacking someone else. A woman screams "oh my God!" as this went on... and on. Security did little or nothing to stop the violence.
The other Wal-Mart video's origin appears to be unknown, but it had some wide viral pick-up Friday morning. Again, the fight seemingly broke out over the same flat-screen TV deal. This time Wal-Mart security tried to intervene but couldn't calm the throbbing mass around them. Two girls started fighting over a television before police could break them up. The video ended with one woman being handcuffed while atop the flat-screen [because nothing says pre-Christmas Wal-Mart shopping like being handcuffed on top of the flat-screen television you were fighting over.]
Two people were taken into custody following a three-person brawl over alleged line-cutting outside a Wal-Mart in Rialto, CA.
Incidentally, the fight at the Wal-Mart in Elkin, NC, also showed hints of a Wal-Mart PR offensive to tamp down the bad rep garnered by its customer behavior. The person who captured the mayhem on video, New York filmmaker BRIAN SPAIN, was kicked out by a Wal-Mart employee. According to Spain, "I immediately had an employee --I assume the manager since he was the one that kicked me out-- tell me that I had to turn my camera off and leave the store or I would be arrested for trespassing." [The strategy for keeping the stores safer, you see, involves banning people from filming unsafe situations.]
The mayhem was hardly limited to Wal-Mart. At the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, a woman zapped someone with a stun gun while shopping at 2:30 in the morning. [Electrifying prices!] Far more efficient than in 2011 when a woman used pepper spray to keep fellow shoppers at bay. Yes, that was at a Wal-Mart. Trampling? So 2009! But then, in Garfield, NJ, police had to pepper spray a Wal-Mart shopper who was fighting with another man over a television.
In Chicago, a shoplifting scheme at a Kohl's in Chicago ended when a police officer was dragged by the getaway car and the driver was shot in his shoulder. Police chased two people sprinting from the store with arm-loads of stolen merchandise. They raced to a Pontiac Sunfire waiting nearby. In the ensuing scuffle, one officer was somehow caught in the car and dragged as the criminals drove away. Another officer shot the driver in the shoulder, foiling their plan. Three people were arrested, no one was seriously injured, and shoppers did just as you'd expect: --they kept right on shopping, some using their cell phones to snap pictures of the crime scene where police had marked things off with orange cones out front.
Those who decided to skip Black Friday shopping in favor of a trip to the Grand Canyon got to see the natural wonder from an extraordinary perspective.
Due to a rare weather phenomenon, the Grand Canyon's famous gorges were filled with a river of fog. According to the national park's Facebook page, the fog was caused by something called a 'temperature inversion'. This happens when warm air higher up acts as a lid to seal cool air near the ground.
Temperature inversions aren't unusual, but rare around the canyon, happening maybe once or twice a year, but never producing such a picturesque full inversion. Most of the inversions only fill up parts of the canyon, or occur on cloudy days.
Last Friday's inversion happened against a perfectly clear blue sky, enveloping the entire canyon, an event park rangers say happens maybe once every 10 years. The Facebook page contains stunning photos and there's also a brief YouTube video surveying the fog-covered canyon.
Good news for...
..."A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," which pulled in 5.3 million total viewers this past Thursday, up 33 percent over last year's showing.
...The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which picked up 11 percent over the past year's showing to hit an 11 year high as well. NBC's "National Dog Show" was also up 13 percent, giving it a nine-year high.
...That "GARTH BROOKS: Live From Las Vegas" special garnered 8.8 million total viewers and also led Friday night's viewership in its time slot, getting triple the viewership of Thanksgiving night's special with LADY GAGA and The Muppets.
This weekend's hot movies (Deadline):
The "Hunger Games" continues to top the weekend box office, with a five-day total of $110 million, and bringing its two-week total to close to a half-billion worldwide. The five-day total is a new record, breaking the old one set by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," in case you're keeping track of things like that.
The weekend's number two movie, the debut of Disney's "Frozen," also beat the five-day "Harry Potter" record as well. The rest of the top-10 (three day weekend total followed by five-day total):
10. "Last Vegas," $2.5 /$3.6 million,
9. "Philomena," $3.2 /$4 million,
8. "Black Nativity," (debut), $4 /5 million,
7. "The Book Thief," $4.5 /6 million,
6. "Homefront," (debut), $5.9 /8.8 million,
5. "Delivery Man," $6 /8.8 million,
4. "The Best Man Holiday," $9.2 /11.8 million,
3. "Thor: The Dark World," $10 /$14.4 million,
2. "Frozen," (debut), $63.8 /90.6 million,
1. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $76.6 million (5 days: $110 million).
Computers, and other techno-geek-a-zoid crap:
Watch out Google Glass, Sony is delving into wearable technology --and fashion, apparently-- with a patent for a wig that can check your blood pressure, detect objects around you, and even help blind people navigate roads.
Sony thinks its SmartWig, worn "in addition to natural hair," could become "very popular" as a "technically intelligent item and fashion item at the same time" since it would be more comfortable than other wearable devices. While it's obvious when a person is using Google Glass, at least parts of the SmartWig could be hidden from view.
Though there are no commercial plans yet, three prototypes have been made, including one that flips PowerPoint slides when pulled left or right. The patent notes the SmartWig could also use ultrasound waves and sensors to spot a person's surroundings and detect the wearer's pulse, temperature, and blood pressure. Another bonus: It can be made from horse, yak, buffalo, or human hair, as well as feathers, wool, or synthetic material.
Factoid: It’s estimated that men will shave 20-thousand times in their lifetime. Depending on who you ask --and, presumably, how much hair you have-- that can add up to around 27 feet of hair for every man on earth. (Source: Buzzfeed.com)
Space, the Final Frontier:
Scientists are trying to determine whether a seven-year-old Florida boy was hit by a piece of cosmic debris.
A local TV station is reporting the boy was playing in his driveway when he was hit by unusual pea-sized rock fragments, leaving a nasty gash in his head. STEVEN LIPPARD’s dad had the rocks tested at Florida Atlantic University. Researchers say they are metallic, which could indicate they’re meteorite fragments, but more testing needs to be done to confirm.
If scientists verify a meteorite strike, the boy will join just one other known victim in US history: an Alabama woman who was seriously injured by an eight-pound space rock in 1954. In 1992, a 27-pound rock crushed a car in New York.
Helping Mother Nature:
Before you empty the fridge of all those foil- and plastic-shrouded Thanksgiving leftovers, Earth911.com suggests ways to re-purpose Aluminum Pie Pans. Not all are genius, but it’s the thought that counts.
--Weight it down with a rock and fill it with birdseed as a bird-feeder.
--Use it as a craft tray for paints, beads, etc. or as a “frame” for kids’ art (glued to the center.)
--Cut it into shapes with the right tools to craft into holiday ornaments.
--Use it under candles to catch wax drips.
--Take it along as a food dish for Fido on-the-go.
--Punch some holes in it and use it as a veggie tray on the grill, or a spatter guard over a frying pan on the stove.
If none of those ideas appeal, then at least toss it into the recycling bin, as there’s no limit on the number of times aluminum can be recycled. Consequently, aluminum is a valuable commodity, and is four times more valuable than other recyclable materials, according to The Aluminum Association.
As talked about this morning. Is this why Justice Roberts voted the Affordable Care Act consitituitonal? (See below)
Forget email and phone data. The NSA is officially spying on something people really want to keep private: their porn history.
This is the latest leak from EDWARD SNOWDEN's treasure trove.
The spy agency has proposed discrediting radical Islamists who might be attempting to radicalize others by publicly airing any dirty laundry that might make them look like hypocrites, including their porn habits.
In a memo from last October, the NSA's director touts six targets as "exemplars" of how the tactic could work. The six targets, three English-speaking and three Arabic-speaking, are believed to be radicalizing others through inflammatory YouTube and social media posts. All are Muslims believed to be abroad, though one is characterized as a "US person." None are suspected of being involved in terrorist plots, and in the case of the English speakers, only one percent of their contacts are suspected of being affiliated with extremist groups.
The NSA has sexually explicit info on at least two of them --others are to be discredited with things like financial indiscretions. The document doesn't state how far the NSA has gone in its plan.