Psst! GM is ready to give you a loaner
General Motors is offering free loaner cars and $500 toward a new GM vehicle to the owners of 1.6 million cars that are being recalled for a deadly ignition switch defect. But the owners have to ask in order to get the benefits. The offers, disclosed Wednesday in a document on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website, are effective immediately. Owners will be able to use the loaner cars until parts arrive at dealerships to replace the switches. They are expected around April 7, GM said. The cars being recalled are Cobalts and Pontiac G5s (model years 2005-2007), Saturn Ion compacts (2003-2007), and Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars (2006-2007). Faulty ignitions can shut off engines unexpectedly. GM says 13 people have died in crashes linked to the problem. GM is facing a Department of Justice investigation over its handling of the recall. The company has admitted that it knew about the problem a decade ago.
Starbucks tips go digital
Starting next Wednesday, Starbucks says customers will be able to leave tips with the company's mobile payment app for iPhones. Starbucks says roughly one out of every 10 purchases now is made with a mobile device. After paying with the app, customers will be able to leave a tip of 50 cents, $1 or $2 anytime within two hours of the transaction. The move puts a spotlight on what can be a sensitive topic for customers, workers and even Starbucks, which has faced lawsuits over how it divvies up the contents of tip jars among workers. Zee Lemke, 30, who has worked as a Starbucks barista in Wisconsin for three years, says tips generally add between $1.50 and $2 to her hourly pay of $9.05. While mobile tipping has the potential to boost the amount she earns, she doesn't like the idea of employers relying on tips to compensate workers. "It's a way of claiming workers make more than you're paying them," she told the Associated Press.
Google likes Credit Karma
Google is betting that good things will happen to Credit Karma, an online service that provides consumers with free copies of credit scores. On Wednesday, Google announced that it is part of a group investing $85 million in Credit Karma. Anyone who sets up a free account at Credit Karma can check their credit scores once a week. Credit Karma obtains its credit score through TransUnion, one of the three major U.S. credit-rating agencies along with Experian and Equifax. The service also lists a score based on another formula used by all three agencies and another number that most auto and home insurers rely upon to evaluate how likely their prospective policyholders are to file a claim. Credit Karma CEO Ken says the company's next product will be unveiled in a couple of months and will offer free access to a service that consumers now pay to get.
Safer hydrocodone coming
The maker of OxyContin says it has completed testing of an abuse-resistant version of the painkiller hydrocodone. Purdue Pharma plans to submit its extended-release hydrocodone drug to the Food and Drug Administration later this year. The tablets are designed to prevent users from crushing them for snorting or injection. This development could derail sales of the recently launched Zohydro, a powerful pain medication that has been criticized for lacking such safeguards. Purdue says its version of hydrocodone will be similar to the tamper-resistant version of OxyContin it launched in 2010. The FDA later blocked all generic versions of the pill that did not have the abuse-deterrent features, effectively allowing Purdue to extend its exclusive marketing of the pill. — tbt*