Amazon to lower prices at Whole Foods after acquisition approved by shareholders

Published: Thursday, August 24, 2017 @ 3:56 PM



Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Austin-based Whole Foods Market will officially close on Monday, the companies said Thursday.

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News of the closing date comes a day after Whole Foods shareholders voted to approve the deal, and the Federal Trade Commission said it would no longer be investigating the merger, which essentially cleared it to be closed.

Amazon’s impact will be immediately seen at Whole Foods, as the company said it will lower prices at the stores and integrate its Amazon Prime program.

"We're determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer. “Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality - we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market's long-held commitment to the highest standards.”

Beginning Monday, prices for some of Whole Foods best-selling items, such as the Whole Trade bananas, organic avocados and organic eggs, will be lowered, the companies said.

Amazon Prime will also become Whole Foods’ customer rewards program sometime in the future, the companies said, showing that the e-commerce giant is looking to quickly integrate one of its most popular products into Whole Foods.

Beyond that, the companies said that “Amazon lockers” will be available in select Whole Foods stores, where customers will be able to have products shipped from Amazon.com to their local Whole Foods store.

“This is just the beginning,” the companies said in the announcement. “Amazon and Whole Foods Market plan to offer more in-store benefits and lower prices for customers over time as the two companies integrate logistics and point-of-sale and merchandising systems.”

Amazon and Whole Foods announced the agreement on June 16. The two companies began talks about two months before then after Whole Foods representatives first contacted Amazon.

Whole Foods shareholders are set to receive $42 per share in the sale. Amazon.com will gain ownership of Whole Foods’ more than 460 stores, as well as add the grocer’s roughly 87,000 employees to its workforce. Amazon has said it will keep the Whole Foods name on stores and retain CEO John Mackey.

"It's been our mission for 39 years at Whole Foods Market to bring the highest quality food to our customers," Mackey said. "By working together with Amazon and integrating in several key areas, we can lower prices and double down on that mission and reach more people with Whole Foods Market's high-quality, natural and organic food. As part of our commitment to quality, we'll continue to expand our efforts to support and promote local products and suppliers. We can't wait to start showing customers what's possible when Whole Foods Market and Amazon innovate together."

Equifax to offer free credit freezes for life, new CEO says

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 3:42 PM

143 Million Could Be Affected by Equifax Data Breach

Equifax’s new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new life-long credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

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Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company’s new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

“On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach,” Barros said in an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. “People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn’t live up to expectations.” 

According to a news report, Barros’ op-ed was not initially available on Equifax’s website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar life-long freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will “let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will.”

With the service, he said, “the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult.”

Equifax’s efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the U.S. has faced.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach.

>> Related: Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Some lawmakers are calling for “clawbacks” of Equifax executives’ pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits accumulated during his 12-year tenure at the company.

Barros said the company is also extending the deadlines to the end of January for the free credit freezes and credit monitoring services it offered in the wake of the hacking incident. The company initially set up a one-month sign-up window after the data theft was disclosed on Sept. 7.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website. Many said they weren't able to sign up, or Equifax's employees couldn't answer some questions. Thursday, Equifax's website indicated the problems continue.

“We are currently experiencing difficulties with our TrustedID website. As a result, the site may be unavailable periodically, and we are working hard to help reduce interruptions,” the company said on its website.

Barros said the company is working on fixing its website and adding more call center employees and additional training.

“We have to see this breach as a turning point — not just for Equifax, but for everyone interested in protecting personal data,” he said.

This Saturday, July 21, 2012, photo shows the Equifax Inc. headquarters in Atlanta. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, credit reporting agency Equifax ousted CEO Richard Smith in an effort to clean up the mess left by a damaging data breach that exposed highly sensitive information about 143 million Americans. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)(Mike Stewart/AP)
 

Another Equifax hacking possible as web page taken down

Published: Thursday, October 12, 2017 @ 3:54 PM

The Equifax Breach – How To Find Out If You are at Risk

In what could be yet another incident of hacking, Equifax has taken down a web page because of suspicion that it had been manipulated.

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The site, one of the embattled company’s customer service offerings, was delivering fraudulent updates for Adobe Flash, which – when clicked – would infect a visitor’s computer with unwanted software, according to a security analyst and the technology web site Ars Technica.

Equifax officials on Thursday confirmed that it had taken down the web page, but did not confirm the rest of the report or offer other details.

This July 21, 2012, file photo shows Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta. Equifax has taken down one of its web pages after reports that another part of its website had been hacked as well. The news comes as Equifax continues to deal with the aftermath of hackers breaking into its system earlier in 2017 which allowed the personal information of 145.5 million Americans to be accessed or stolen. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)(Mike Stewart/AP)
“We are aware of the situation identified on the equifax.com website in the credit report assistance link,” the company said. “Our IT and Security teams are looking into this matter, and out of an abundance of caution have temporarily taken this page offline.”

Target testing Drive Up service at some stores

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 10:55 PM

Drive Up Service Being Tested At Some Target Stores

Target has begun testing a new service for its popular Target runs -- that is, quick trips to the store to pick up a few items.

According to an Oct. 2 news release, the retailer is testing out Drive Up, a service that allows customers to order something from Target and have it brought to their car by an employee.

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To access the feature, users place an order on the free Target app and select the Drive Up option. The app will alert customers when their order is ready for pick-up. When en route to pick up the item, users can tap the “I’m on My Way” button.

Similar to Chick-fil-A’s app, users will be able to park in a designated spot and wait for an employee to come out with their order.

“Stopping for diapers and toilet paper may not be glamorous, but it’s still on a lot of our to-do lists,” Dawn Block, Target senior vice president of digital said in the release. “Drive Up is our latest effort to make it easier and faster for busy guests to conveniently get what they need, and simply get back to their day.”

The curbside pick-up serice is still in its testing phase. CNBC reported that it’s only avialbe at 50 locations in the region around the retailer’s Minneapolis headquaters.

For now, the Target app is only on iOS devices.

AOL retiring its pioneering Instant Messenger app

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 10:51 AM



Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Web company AOL announced the end of an era on Friday: Come December, the company’s groundbreaking Instant Messenger program will be retired.

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AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was the first chat application of its kind when it launched in 1997.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” said Michael Albers, vice president of communications products at Oath, AOL’s parent company. “As a result we’ve made the decision that we will be discontinuing AIM effective December 15, 2017.”

Users will no longer be able to sign into AIM starting Dec. 15, and all data associated with the app will be deleted thereafter, according to AOL. Users can save their images, files and chat history before then.

People who have email addresses under the aim.com domain name will still be able to access email as usual, according to AOL.

Company officials said in an FAQ about the change that no replacement app is in the works.

“Thank you to all of our AIM users,” Albers said. “We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.”