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It Depends on What the Definition of “Unlimited” Is

Were you recently screwed by AT&T? You may have been and don’t even know it; or maybe you noticed that slight burning, achy feeling, but didn’t think there was anything you could do about it. Don’t worry, the FTC has got your back.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced it is suing AT&T. The commission is charging the carrier for allegedly misleading millions of its smartphone customers by changing the terms while customers were still under contract for “unlimited” data plans that were, well, limited.

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”

In a federal court complaint filing, the FTC says AT&T reduced the data speeds on “unlimited” accounts. The carrier did so by 80 to 90 percent for affected users, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. … The FTC says AT&T began reducing data speeds in 2011 for its unlimited data plan customers. Although the carrier no longer offers unlimited data plans, the FTC estimates AT&T throttled at least 3.5 million unique customers a total of more than 25 million times.

That’s a lot of throttling. No wonder my neck hurts. OK, so maybe AT&T sucks to the point of fraud and deceit. Is it time to switch or are all carriers terrible? As CNET puts it, more tactfully, “there are no guarantees. So all you can do is make your choice, hope for the best, and be your own advocate if you aren’t pleased.” Uh huh. T-Mobile apparently doesn’t do contracts anymore and Sprint has “Framily” plans. Pick your poison.

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This Halloween, Everybody Wants to Be a Magical Blonde Woman in a Blue Dress

Have you gotten your Halloween costume yet? Odds are, you’re going as a magical blonde woman in a blue dress.

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The Week It Rained and the Future of Umbrellas

MIKE: I am a no umbrella person. Meaning I like a good waterproof jacket with a hood. And rain boots.

ESTER: That’s nonsense Mike and you know it.

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Everything You Need to Know About Diapers, Part 2

You need 10-12 cloth diapers ($180) just to get through a regular Monday — and that assumes you are then going to wash and dry the whole load to get it ready for Tuesday, and you will never do that, that’s insane. So really you need more like 25 ($250) at least, plus the liners, which are still necessary to keep the diapers from turning into a swamp.

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Everything You Need to Know About Diapers, Part 1

In 2012, Consumer Reports estimated that new parents will spend $2,500+ dealing with the aftereffects of one baby’s digestion. Because everything made by Proctor and Gamble is an environmental scourge, you can instead, if you like, spend $3,500+ on eco-friendly alternatives. (It’s not easy being green.)

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How Going Cash-Only Helped Me Curb My Spending

I never carry cash. This shouldn’t seem like a big deal, because debit cards can be cancelled if you lose them; parking meters, farmer’s markets, and even jukeboxes in the good dive-y bars all accept Visa these days.

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Link Roundup! “Breaking Bad” Dolls, Men’s Watches, Last Call for Holiday Flights

+ Sorry, guys. Since a Florida mom complained, you can’t buy “Breaking Bad” action figures at Toys R Us anymore. Note: the NPR article about this story uses “dolls” and “action figures” interchangeably, but I feel like I read something in the New Yorker once delineating the subtle but fascinating distinctions between the categories — which matter a lot for import tax reasons. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Did I dream it, like I dreamed last night that I got mauled by someone’s pet tiger? (“He’s usually very friendly,” the person said, cleaning my wounds.)

+ Remember those happy days when there was a clear hierarchy to men’s watches?

If you’re scaling your way up the ladder of rich douchiness, you start with a middle-class-friendly Casio or Timex. After your first six figures in the finance industry, you move to an “entry-level” luxury watch, like a Rolex, by 30. Then, in your 40s, if you’re lucky, you park your annual bonus on a high-end Swiss number. And in your 50s, feeling both flush and the literal press of time, you rock the equivalent of a Porsche on your wrist, before passing it on to the next generation as a family heirloom.

But since 2007, the whole system has been disrupted by something called “the Ice-Watch” (??), at least in Europe, where everyone, even rich people, wants the cool fun watch that costs only $200. The best part of this article is that it says the Ice-Watch “cock-blocked Swatch.” Wow. Mike would wash our mouths out with soap if we talked like that.

+ Haven’t purchased your flights home for the holidays yet? There’s still time, maybe! A little time, not much. Some years the cheapest flights appear 10 days out, right before prices spike. And holiday flights are actually super expensive in July and August, to punish those of you who might otherwise feel good about being on the ball.

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The Cost of Halloween, Part 1: Costumes

I went to my first Halloween party of the season Saturday night, which meant it was time to put together my Halloween costume.

As you know from earlier postings, this year I’m costuming/cosplaying Julia Wicker from Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. (One of the parties I’m attending is themed “come as your favorite author or book character,” so that’s where I got the idea.)

Julia doesn’t have a specific look to copy, which makes the costume a bit easier. I decided to make the base level of the costume pajamas, because if there’s one thing I know about people who spend all day studying magic and posting to online message boards, it’s that they’re probably doing it in their pajamas.

Since I already own pajamas, that meant I only needed to buy a few additional items:

Binder: $12.99

Glittery letters to spell “Spellbinder” on binder: $5.49

Blue star stickers to simulate Julia’s star tattoos: $2.79

And, of course, the wig.

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The Ethics of Only Selling Clothes for the Very Thin

People saying it’s not nice for a popular brand not to include clothes for the chubbier among us are missing the point.

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Kickstarter’s New Motto: Kaveat Emptor

Anonabox, the Washington Post reports, may not just be a silly name for a product; it might have the distinction of being a Kickstarter cautionary tale.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.) But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

Haha oops! And backers are not happy.

Since 9 a.m. today, donors have withdrawn roughly $14,000 in pledges, or 2 percent of the project’s earnings to that point. (Under Kickstarter policy, backers can change or cancel their donations at any time before a project closes, with some exceptions if they cancel in the last 24 hours.) According to Anonabox’s Kickstarter page, more than 200 people have contributed at least $250 to the project, and a handful have donated considerably more.

Funny that Kickstarter refuses to get involved in a case of fraud and misrepresentation, whereas GoFundMe was quick on the draw when it discovered that a woman was trying to raise money for a lawful abortion. But the bigger lesson is, of course, caveat emptor, everyone.

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I Bought Some Jeans on Sale at The Gap And Now I’m a Person Again

I was the only person in Gap at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday, which I would recommend for anyone who has tried to avoid thinking about their body for a very long time and is ready to face the music in the most boring way possible and at a 40% discount.

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