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UPS Readies for Its Busiest Day of the Year


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- UPS expects to deliver 34 million packages globally on Monday, or 394 packages every second.

The company has invested $500 million to avoid last year's failure to deliver millions of packages in time for Christmas.

This year's projected record level for single day deliveries beats last year’s "peak day" deliveries of 31 million, according to a UPS spokesman.

The company delivers 17 million on an average day.

Here are some of the things that UPS has invested in:

1. Package Recipient Control

Customers can track the timing of packages using UPS MyChoice online or with a mobile app. They can also set up alternative delivery locations on both platforms, like a neighbor’s home or a UPS Store location. They can even get as specific as a "back door."

Registered MyChoice members can get a free text or email message the day before the package arrives. If the initial delivery time doesn’t work, there are options to reschedule or reroute the package for $5.

2. Workers Don't Have to Read Zip Codes

"Next Generation Sort Aisle" is UPS' system at three U.S. locations that scans packages quickly and flashes instructions to workers, so they don't have to memorize hundreds of ZIP Codes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Basically, we can automatically re-route package sort so that when the UPSer scans a package it tells them what chute to put it in," a UPS spokesman told ABC News Monday morning.

3. Reroute Packages in Bad Weather

Before UPS' latest technology was implemented, "a supervisor would have to walk the aisle and tell each of the approximately 50 workers in Atlanta separately -- and hope they would remember," the Wall Street Journal reported. Now, UPS' system reroutes packages at a "moment's notice."

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Does Anyone Truly Take Time Off from Work Anymore?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When you take time off from work for the holidays, do you really take time off? 

The data protection company Zix recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 full-time employees and found that of those who plan to take time off for the holiday, 57 percent said they intend to spend part of their holiday break working. Forty-nine percent said they’d work at least an hour a day, and one-third said they’d work at least two hours. Twelve percent said they plan to work more than six hours per day while “off.”

Observers note that working for just a little bit is understandable in this era of smartphones. The survey found that 80 percent of employees admit to responding to emails after work even when they’ve enlisted an out-of-office reply. 

And while keeping up with a constant stream of emails while you're off can be stressful, sifting through hundreds of unread messages when you return to work can be worse.

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Car Rentals Soar During Christmastime


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Renting a car over the holidays?  Be prepared to spend big bucks.

A new study examined the car rental rates of 30 popular U.S. destinations over the period spanning December 23 to 27 and found sky-high holiday increases.  For example, in West Palm Beach, Florida, the daily rental rate for the cheapest available car is $133.  That’s a 600-percent increase over the regular, non-holiday rates in that town.

New York City has the highest Christmas season average daily rate -- $178 a day -- but that’s only a 177-percent increase over regular rates.

Here’s a rundown of the 10 U.S. destinations with the highest car rental rates during the Christmas season, along with a percentage-wise comparison to regular, non-holiday prices.

1. New York City, $178 ( 177%)
2. West Palm Beach, $133 ( 583%)
3. Honolulu, $106 ( 278%)
4. Fort Myers, $98 ( 302%)
5. Sarasota, $97 ( 81%)
6. Portland, $89 ( 155%)
7. Denver, $88 ( 287%)
8. Baltimore, $85 ( 76%)
9. Boston, $81 ( 94%)
10. Philadelphia, $80 ( 14%)

The survey was conducted by CheapCarRental.net.

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New Wristband Tells Your DVR to Record When You Doze Off


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Big news for couch potatoes who’ve fallen asleep in front of the TV and missed a show they wanted to watch.  

Virgin Media will begin a trial next year on KipstR, a new wearable device that will monitor your pulse and detect when you've fallen asleep.

The wristband will then mimic your TiVo remote control and tell it to pause the current show and begin recording it for later viewing.

The device was designed by two British teens, ages 14 and 15.

Interested in signing up for the free trial? Go to Virginmedia.com.

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Yankees Charity to Pay For Education of Slain Police Officer's Children


Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New York Yankees' Silver Shield Foundation is offering to pay for any and all education expenses for the children of Rafael Ramos, one of the two NYPD officers killed Saturday in Brooklyn.

In a phone interview with ABC News on Sunday, the group's chairman William Walters said the group has already reached out to the police department, but has not been in contact with Ramos' family.

The Silver Shield Goundation was started by James Fuchs and George Steinbrenner in 1982 to pay for the education expenses of all children and spouses of New York law enforcement and other authorities killed in the line of duty.

"We just want to do good for these people that take care of us," Walters said.

Walters said the foundation plans to set aside funds Monday for both of Ramos' children, and also said money will be made available to both of the officers' spouses for any education related expenses they might take on.

Officer Wenjian Liu, 32, the other officer killed Saturday, was married just two months ago.

Ramos' 13-year-old son Jaden Ramos posted a message on Facebook Saturday evening.

In a news conference Saturday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he met with both Jaden and Officer Ramos' wife, and said Jaden "couldn't comprehend what happened to his father."

Ramos and Liu were shot with "no warning, no provocation" shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday as they sat in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said.

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LA Dodgers Are Biggest Spenders in Major League Baseball


Harry How/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- After a fifteen year run, the New York Yankees are no longer the biggest spenders in baseball.

Based on final calculations made by Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were knocked out in the divisional playoffs this year, reportedly finished the 2014 season with a record payroll of over $257 million. The Dodgers owe $26.6 million in luxury tax.

The Yankees, the previous biggest spenders, cut almost $10 million off their payroll, but they still owe $18 million in luxury tax.

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Brick-and-Mortar Stores Fight Online Shopping By Going Digital In-Store


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some brick-and-mortar stores are doing all they can to offer high-tech in-store shopping and mimic an online shopping experience to draw more customers in.

Saturday kicks off the last weekend before Christmas and may actually be the biggest shopping day of the year. Roughly 93 percent of Americans haven’t finished their Christmas shopping by this point, and shopping online may be risky if you hope to get it in time.

“There are so many variables,” said Mark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever. “Last year, presents arrived late after Christmas and all you got was an apology.”

But those procrastinators will take heart in the brick-and-mortar stores that are taking inspiration from the ease of online shopping and bringing it to their customers who walk through the door.

For example, Rebecca Minkoff’s new boutique in New York City offers interactive walls equipped with giant touchscreens where shoppers can browse items they want to try on, see complete outfits, look at what people are posting on Instagram about the brand, send items to a dressing room to try on later – even order a drink.

Minkoff and her brother Uri founded the company together, and decided to make their new NYC store state-of-the-art. Even the dressing rooms are equipped with touchscreens where customers can request new sizes, instead of asking a sales associate directly, and even adjust the lighting.

“You’re probably looking for a holiday cocktail dress or something like that but this lighting is not the best for it so we want to give you lighting options,” Uri Minkoff said.

Rebecca Minkoff is just one of dozens of stores incorporating the latest technology. Hointer Demin store and Lab in Seattle allows customers to scan what they see on the floor and have it automatically delivered to a dressing room. Lowes Home Improvement stores are experimenting with robot salespeople.

“The retail landscape is so competitive and the way to stand out is to use technology like everywhere else,” Ellwood said. “Brick-and-mortar retail stores are really taking inspiration from online stores, which know a lot about our shopping habits and the brick-and-mortar guys say hang on a second, we can know that too.”

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FTC Announces Cramming Settlement with T-Mobile


Terroa/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Trade Commission announced on Friday a settlement with T-Mobile for charges that it engaged in "cramming," or the practice of placing unwanted third-party charges on its customers' bills.

T-Mobile will pay at least $90 million in the settlement, plus $18 million in fines and penalties to the attorneys general of all 40 states and the District of Columbia and $4.5 million to the Federal Communications Commission. "Mobile cramming is an issue that has affected millions of American consumers," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said Friday, "and I'm pleased that this settlement will put money back in the hands of affected T-Mobile customers."

"Consumers should be able to trust that their mobile phone bills reflect the charges they authorized and nothing more," Ramirez added.

The FTC filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile accusing the company of placing millions of dollars of unwanted third-party charges -- such a horoscopes, love tips and celebrity gossip -- on customers' bills. The company, the FTC said, received 35 to 40 percent of every charge placed.

In recent months, the FTC has brought multiple cramming cases in recent months, including a settlement with AT&T and a recently filed case against Sprint.

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Wall Street Continues Climb, Labor Department Notes Positive State Unemployment Data


tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Coming off of the strongest two-day trading in over a year, Wall Street closed the week on a positive note Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 44.02 to 17822.17.

The Nasdaq climbed 20.91 to 4769.31, while the S&P 500 closed at 2072.05, up 10.82 from its opening price.

On Friday, the Labor Department released data on state unemployment rates for November, noting that 41 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates decrease from October, while just three states saw increases in unemployment. The largest improvement came in Illinois where the unemployment rate dropped 2.6 points.

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Amazon Fire Phone Gets Major Updates


Amazon(NEW YORK) -- Amazon is refusing to give up on its Fire phone and the users who snapped up the device, despite its lackluster debut over the summer.

Six months after its release, Amazon has rolled out a software update for the phone that brings with it a number of new and smarter features.

Among those are text translation in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The upgrade also enables the phone's much-hyped Firefly feature to be able to recognize 2,000 famous paintings.

Another new feature is "best shot," which takes three versions of a photo, allowing the user to choose their favorite.

In September, the Fire phone, which featured what Amazon called "breakthrough" technology, was being sold for 99 cents with a contract.

Amazon revealed in its quarterly earnings call in October that it took a charge of $170 million for "inventory evaluation and supplier commitment costs" for the Fire, after it failed to create a spark in the smartphone market.

Critics have said the Fire is less a phone and more a "shopping machine" designed to capture more Amazon customers.

If you're still intrigued by the Fire phone, it's not too late to order one in time for Christmas.

Amazon announced on Friday it will give free two-day shipping on most Amazon devices, including the Fire phone, through Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. ET.

After that, the retailer will provide free one-day shipping on those devices until Dec. 23 at 3 p.m. ET.

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Verizon Lets Users Text Message the Gift of Coffee


Verizon(NEW YORK) -- There's nothing worse than being crunched for time while holiday shopping or realizing you forgot someone on your list.

Verizon is aiming to solve its subscribers' gift-giving nightmares by allowing them to give anyone a Starbucks gift card by sending a quick text message. The gift will be added to the subscriber's Verizon bill.

Here's how it works:

Download the Verizon messages app and compose a text message. Next, click the sign and choose the gift icon. From there, users are prompted to choose whether they'd like to send $5, $10 or $25. Choose a background image, enter a festive message and press send.

The recipient will immediately get a text message letting them know they've received a Starbucks credit, along with a bar code that can be used to pay at the store.

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Top Year-End Money Tips for 2014


Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With less than two weeks to go before the end of the year, both Santa and the "tax man" will be checking their "naughty or nice" lists.

To start, remember that you'll get a better sense of where your money is heading if you know where it's been.

"If you’ve gone a little overboard on holiday gifts or eating out, it might be time to revisit your budget," said Holly Perez, Mint.com spokeswoman and consumer spending expert.

Here's how to enter 2015 without a holiday hangover:

1. Develop a debt payoff strategy.

"If you have extra cash in the bank, it’s worth making a large payment toward cutting down you debt. If you can’t pay down a debt you accumulated this year, create a debt payoff plan that will get it down next year," Perez said.

If you discover you can't pay off your unsecured debt in five years or less, you may need to talk with a credit counselor or even a bankruptcy attorney, said Gerri Detweiler, a credit expert with Credit.com.

2. Automate everything.

"The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be in 2015," Perez said. "This is also a good time to review and cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren’t using, such as music streaming services, magazines, newspapers, premium subscriptions, etc."

3. Spend your FSA.

Flexible spending accounts allow employees to set aside a portion of earnings tax-free to pay for qualified expenses, most commonly medical expenses and dependent care.

"So if you have a FSA for qualifying expenses, now is the time to submit any outstanding claims," Perez said. "You can carry over only $500 into 2015, so get those claims in now. This is the perfect excuse to make those doctor appointments you’ve been putting off all year."

4. Review your insurance plans and rates.

Look over your health, life, homeowners, renters and car insurance plans.

"It’s easy to 'set it and forget it,' then end up with the same insurance carrier for years," Perez said.

If you have any changes coming in 2015 that you need to plan for, including getting married, having a baby or buying a home, shop around for some new insurance plans and rates.

5. Tidy your tax tasks.

First, pull out your credit card for tax deductions. Whether it’s a charitable purchase you want to make sure gets counted in 2014, or a business purchase you want made by year end, go online and use your credit card for the transaction, according to Detweiler.

"You’ll have a receipt for this year, but the bill won’t be officially due until next year. And if you get credit card rewards for the purchase, all the better," Detweiler said.

Offset any capital gains by taking losses on positions that are in the red, suggested Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. In addition to the ability to offset capital gains completely, you can also offset up to $3,000 in income with capital losses.

6. Make charitable contributions by Dec. 31.

And be sure to get a receipt, notes McBride.

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Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal Casino Safe -- For Now


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Atlantic City, New Jersey will not witness the shutdown of another of its famed casinos -- at least for now.

Despite failing to negotiate on a $100 million settlement deal to save the floundering boardwalk fixture, billionaire investor Carl Icahn assured Taj Mahal employees on Thursday that they could keep the lights on, as he committed a $20 million investment to keep the casino operational throughout its bankruptcy proceedings.

The Taj Mahal casino was slated to shut down at 6 a.m. EST on Saturday.

In an open letter to Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Bob Griffin, Icahn proclaimed that he took “great pride in [his] ability to successfully rebuild failing businesses,” while subsequently calling the casino operator “one of the most distressed companies I have ever come across in my 50 years of investing.”

Ultimately, while a wider deal could not be reached to save the casino, Icahn committed in his letter to work with the union and the state-local government on a new deal, but made no assertions that such a deal was formally in the works.

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Why Some Celebrities Lost Millions of Instagram Followers


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Call it the great Instagram purge of 2014.

Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian, both celebrities who are active on the site, were among the A-listers who lost millions of Instagram followers, but by no fault of their own.

Chances are you may have even lost a few followers as well.

Instagram said last week it was in the process of fixing a glitch that counts fake or inactive accounts in a user's follower/following count.

The problem is most pervasive for public accounts where users do not have to approve their followers.

"As we remove these accounts, some people may notice a decrease in their follower/following counts," Instagram said on its website.

The photo sharing service, which is owned by Facebook, began fixing the issue in April and said they expect it to be completed by the end of this month.

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Sony Suspends Studio Tours


AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Thanks to the Sony hack attack, tours of the studio have been suspended.

In the wake of the hack, Sony says tours are suspended indefinitely, meaning tourists in Southern California this holiday season are out of luck.

Sony won't officially say the hack is the reason for the decision, but last year at this time you could check out the lot. After the holidays, the studio will re-evaluate when to start up the tours again.

The hack attack resulted in the leak of Sony films, personal emails and other information.

Sony on Wednesday cancelled the Christmas Day release date of its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview -- which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un -- in light of threats made by hackers against theaters planning to show the film. A number of theater chains pulled the film from its holiday schedule before Sony made its announcement.

Oddly, Sony Pictures Entertainment's YouTube page on Thursday posted an Interview promotional clip that still touts a Christmas Day release. It's titled, "In Franco & Rogen We Trust." Still, the studio has removed billboards of the movie in various cities.

A White House spokesperson says there is an ongoing investigation into the hack, but he stopped short of pointing the finger at North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday, "There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor."


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