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Consuming Interests
A blog for the smart consumer
Comcast opens new Xfinity Stores in Baltimore area

Comcast is aiming to improve its customer service by revamping the centers where consumers pay bills or drop off cable equipment, making its "Xfinity Stores" more interactive and efficient and opening new locations in the area.

In January alone, new Xfinity Stores have opened in Severna Park, Frederick, and most recently, Jessup. A center that opened in 2012 at Comcast's White Marsh office also has been given a refresh. And additional locations are likely on the way as the company tries to bring centers closer to subscribers.

Comcast describes its stores as places where customers can try out Xfinity products while waiting for service. The cable giant is remodeling and relocating hundreds of stores over the next few years, and could someday offer electronic products for sale there.

At the stores, Comcast greeters approach customers. Big screen TVs line the walls, and customers are invited to sit down at a counter of iPads and "take Xfinity for a test drive." Bright red express pay...

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More consumers than ever plan to save tax refunds, survey shows

Consumers will save, not spend.

Tax filers who get refunds are more likely than in past years to put the money into savings, according to the National Retail Federation.

The trade group's annual Tax Returns Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, showed that 47 percent of those expecting a refund will save that money. That's the highest percentage in the survey's history.

Nearly two thirds of those surveyed expect a refund, according to the survey.

"Americans are thinking of the future, and remaining financially secure is a big part of that," Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in today's announcement.

Those who will spend the money will mostly pay down debt (39 percent) or use it for daily expenses (25 percent).

Only 13 percent plan to splurge on a vacation, and just a tenth will buy a big ticket item such as a TV or car.

Close to a third plan to file their taxes online this year. Only 15 percent said they would wait until just before the April 15 deadline to file.


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No McCormick & Co. cumin products contaminated with peanuts, company says

McCormick & Co. Inc. said today none of its cumin products are involved in recent cases of peanut contamination.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued several warnings from various manufacturers since late December about cumin products being recalled or companies issuing alerts because of products containing undeclared peanut proteins.

 "Due to the FDA consumer advisory and increased attention surrounding peanut contamination of cumin in the marketplace, we want to assure the public that no McCormick products are involved," Roger Lawrence, McCormick's corporate vice president of global quality assurance, said in a statement Thursday. "This includes all ground cumin, cumin seed, and seasonings that contain cumin like Taco Seasoning Mix and Chili Powder."

The FDA is advising people who are highly allergic to peanuts to avoid products containing ground cumin or cumin powder because some shipments have been found to contain undeclared peanut protein.

"People who are highly allergic...

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Best Buy launches wedding registry

Forget silverware and china. Today's engaged couples want to start married life with wireless speakers, cameras and ultra HD TVs, according to Best Buy, which is launching a wedding registry.

The electronics chain is going after the more than 1.5 million couples who register for for wedding gifts each year, typically at about three different stores.

Best Buy said Wednesday it plans a Feb. 16 launch.

"Electronics and small appliances are as important to today’s newlyweds as silverware and towels," said Wendy Fritz, Best Buy's head of gifting strategy, adding that electronics appeal to both brides and grooms.

Couples can create and manage their registry online or through the Best Buy mobile app. By April, all Best Buy locations will have in-store kiosks where lists can be viewed and printed. Couples also can sync their registries with and

The retailer is offering free shipping on all gifts and a one-time 10 percent off coupon for the couple.

And for those who...

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Olive Garden and My Gym offer Parents' Night Out

Olive Garden and My Gym are offering a Parents' Night Out special on Friday, Feb. 20 in which the restaurant will pay for childcare at the fitness center while parents have dinner.

Six My Gym locations in the Baltimore area are participating, with registration available on a first-come, first served basis.

Three of those, Timonium, Annapolis and Columbia, already have hit capacity, but the fitness centers in Bel Air, Owings Mills and Gambrills still have space available.

Olive Garden is offering a four-course Italian meal starting at $12.99 as part of its second annual Parents' Night event. Meanwhile, kids will be led in games and activities at the gym.

The restaurant chain began the promotion after finding that overall cost of childcare and dining is the biggest reason most parents stay home.

Couples can participate by contacting a My Gym location to register. Space is limited to about 30 kids at each participating My Gym locations.



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RadioShack will close 15 Baltimore-area stores by March 31

RadioShack will close 35 Maryland stores by March 31, including 15 in the Baltimore area, as part of the retailer's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based electronics chain announced the bankruptcy last week, saying it would sell up to 2,400 U.S. stores but close the rest of the 4,000 U.S. locations. The company plans to sell the stores to General Wireless, a subsidiary of Standard General, RadioShack's largest shareholder. Sprint could open mini-shops in as many as 1,760 of the acquired RadioShack stores.

RadioShack has nearly 100 stores in Maryland, including 38 in the Baltimore region with seven of those in malls, according to the retailer's website.

Bankruptcy filings show plans to close one group of stores by Feb. 17, including one on Washington Boulevard. Stores to be closed by Feb. 28 include locations in Owings Mills, Towson, Glen Burnie, Columbia, Reisterstown, Westminster, Woodlawn, Annapolis and on 41st Street in Baltimore.

The last wave of stores is...

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