General Motors(DETROIT) -- General Motors is planning to add up to 1,750 jobs and invest $800 million in Michigan over the next several years, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
“GM’s prospects are bright, and we want Michigan to play an important part in the company’s growth,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are pleased with the state of Michigan’s action which makes a strong business case for potential future jobs and investment at GM facilities across Michigan.”
It’s unclear where the jobs will be made available but GM said it planned to add locations throughout the state. Most of the jobs are expected to be offered at its technical center in Warren.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a leaked memo from cable giant Comcast, a top executive expresses contrition for the now-infamous behavior of a service agent that led to a nearly 20-minute recorded call that went viral, but at the same time he conceded that the agent "did a lot of what we trained him and paid him" to do.
Meanwhile, Comcast reported Tuesday that it gained 203,000 high-speed Internet customers in its second quarter, the strongest for a typically slow second quarter in six years. The company reports having 21.3 million high-speed Internet customers.
Dave Watson, chief operating officer of Comcast Cable, wrote in a memo to employees on Monday that the "painful" experience of the customer who recorded the call and posted it on the Internet last week wasn't representative of the "good work" its employees are doing.
"That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast," Watson wrote, according to the memo published by Consumerist.
Comcast apologized last week to the customer Ryan Block, co-founder of tech site Engadget. Comcast did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News about Watson's leaked memo.
"The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him -- and thousands of other Retention agents -- to do," Watson wrote. "He tried to save a customer, and that’s important, but the act of saving a customer must always be handled with the utmost respect."
While Comcast retention agents may be particularly aggressive to stop losing customers, business has been good. While the company lost 144,000 cable video customers in the second quarter, that was mostly attributed to seasonal losses. It still has 22.5 million video customers. In the same period a year ago, the company lost even more cable subscribers (162,000), which was preceded by two quarters of growth.
Comcast is still a very profitable company. It reported $1.99 billion in profit and $16.8 billion in revenue, both up from the same period a year ago, as its high-speed Internet service grows.
"Comcast's second-quarter results again demonstrated the strength of the cable business in general and the firm’s solid execution in particular. Customer metrics were solid, as the firm posted the strongest second-quarter Internet access customer growth in six years," Morningstar analyst Michael Hodel wrote in an investment note.
"Television customer losses totaled 144,000, reflecting the seasonal weakness of the quarter within a very mature business," he wrote.
iStock/Thinkstock(SOMERSET, Ky.) -- City officials in Somerset, Kentucky, about 70 miles south of Lexington, have responded to "big business" by opening a taxpayer-supported gas station for the public with the stated purpose of driving down pump prices.
The Somerset Fuel Center opened last weekend with 10 nozzles and a sale price of $3.36 a gallon for regular gas. The price is only a few cents cheaper than nearby private gas stations, but reports indicate that the competitors have lowered their prices in response.
Mayor Eddie Girdler told ABC News affiliate WBKO that gas prices traditionally increase 20 to 30 cents on the weekend in his city.
"If government doesn't do it to protect the public, then who does it?" Girlder told WBKO. "It's the role of government to protect us from big business."
Girdler could not be reached for further comment.
He told the Washington Post, “We don’t care if we don’t sell a drop of gasoline. Our objective is to lower the price.”
The city's investment included $200,000 to buy a fuel storage facility and less than $75,000 to convert it into a retail business, Girdler told the Post.
While some Somerset drivers applauded the move to lower gas prices, others criticized it as overreaching the government's authority.
“They’ve used the taxpayer money that I have paid them over these years to do this, to be against us,” Duane Adams, a convenience store owner in Somerset, told the Post. “I do not see how they can’t see that as socialism.”
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many parents with young children avoid flying on planes because they worry about keeping their kids entertained in a small enclosed space for hours on end.
Most parents grab the iPad and hope for the best. But a new study from British Airways suggests children might be occupied longer, and stay happier, with far simpler toys. Plus a little adult interaction.
The airline placed children -- aged 2 to 10 -- on a two-hour flight and were observed by scientist and TV personality Robert Winston and a team of educational psychologists.
"You can't expect any child to just be involved in solitary play whether it's an iPhone, iPad for the duration of the flight," said Dr. Vivian Hill, an educational psychologist. "If you mix up the activities and recognize that sometimes you will need to interact with the young person to make it more interactive and more interesting for the young person, you will prolong their period of engagement."
One little boy said he loved the top toy on the list because "they can keep you occupied for hours." Another said he wanted to stay on the plane forever.
“Although the temptation is for parents to play a film in the hope that their child falls asleep, activity based toys, such as Lego, sticker books and travel games are also a great way to keep them engaged," Winston said. "Bringing out a different toy at regular intervals is guaranteed to keep them quiet for longer than 90 minutes.”
Here are British Airways' top 10 toys to take on a plane:
Amazon.com, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- Amazon's Fire phone has ignited interest and imaginations since it was announced last month -- and starting later this week, consumers will be able to get their hands on the 3-D devices.
The Fire phone is available to customers in the United States through AT&T and starts at around $200 with a contract.
Customers who purchase the phone can also take advantage of a limited time introductory offer, snagging them one free year of Prime, Amazon's subscription service that gives members free two-day shipping on music, movies and TV shows, among other perks.
While the smartphone boasts plenty of features that make it stand out from products from Apple and Samsung, there's nothing more telling about Amazon's hopes for the phone than a button that CEO Jeff Bezos introduced as "Firefly."
The new feature, which is similar to Google Glass, will allow users to identify almost any product -- from a book to a game or a container of kosher salt. The Fire phone will then be able to direct users to Amazon to make purchases, making impulse buys even easier.
In a nutshell: Amazon has created a pocket shopping machine that happens to also operate as a phone.
The Fire phone is also different from its competitors because it offers "dynamic perspective," a sensor system that recognizes where a user's head is relative to the Fire phone. This allows the person using the phone to auto-scroll through a book or long webpage without ever having to touch the screen or to take on a character's viewpoint in a game, creating what Amazon describes as an immersive experience.
Apps and Games
Developers have been creating apps and games at a frenetic pace for the phone since it was announced in June. Submissions have more than doubled since the Fire phone was unveiled, according to Amazon.
For the Fandango app, users can look up movie times, but can easily tilt their phones to scope out movie reviews.
Gamers may like the phone because they can also use their gestures to play. In Magmic’s Rubik’s Cube, players can tilt their device to rotate the Rubik's Cube and use their head to peek at other sides of the cube. Photography
Photography fanatics will also be interested in the Fire phone's high-end camera specs, which include optical image stabilization and tiny motors that can adjust for natural hand tremors as a way to decrease the blurriness of photos.
The Fire phone also boasts front- and rear-facing cameras that can record 1080p high-definition videos.
The phone's shutter also excels at low-light photography. When Bezos showed off the phone last month, he noted that the lens stays open four times longer to capture more light.
Bezos also described how the team at Amazon "obsessed over outdoor viewing" and created a device that can easily be read, even in bright outdoor light.
The Fire phone is built with Gorilla Glass 3, aluminum buttons and has a rubberized grip area to bolster its durability.
Previous Amazon device customers may recognize some of the other features it will come equipped with, such as a Mayday button for tech support, X-Ray, which allows users to get more from their media, and ASAP, which predicts what movies and television shows a person will want to watch before they even hit play.
Apple Press(NEW YORK) -- Apple has announced record third quarter earnings that includes an upbeat message from an "incredibly excited" CEO Tim Cook.
"Our record June quarter revenue was fueled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters," he said. "We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce."
The company reported higher iPhone sales this June quarter compared to the same period last year, despite customers who may be holding out for the anticipated iPhone 6.
In a conference call, Cook said he was "excited" about recent developments, including the acquisition of Beats.
Cook also repeated that there is an "incredible pipeline of products and services that we can't wait to show you" -- although he did not go into any detail.
iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A million-dollar mansion in Marengo, Illinois may be one of America's most unsellable homes.
The mansion has an eagle painted on the ceiling, a dragon painted on the bedroom wall, and a life-sized ostrich statue in the living room.
Real estate agent Elka Roberts said she'd been trying to sell the property outside of Chicago for more than two years and is still looking for a buyer.
Unlike the houses in the neighborhood, the mansion has a custom drawbridge, its own tower, and a massive pool. But without any takers, the asking price has dropped by more than $200,000 to $1,099,000, Roberts said.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 2.3 million existing homes are currently on the market, the highest number in almost two years.
So, if you're looking to sell your home, Barbara Corcoran, a New York real estate guru who appears on ABC's Shark Tank, says to keep some cardinal rules of renovation in mind.
"You've got to keep things simple when you sell your house," she said. "White is better than orange. Simple furniture is better than anything fancy. Less art is better than more art. Painted eagles in flight on the ceiling? Think of those eagles as taking your money away."
Other tips include:
Avoid custom paint jobs and ornate lighting.
Don't install carpet. Real estate agents say buyers prefer uncovered floors.
Spend on curb appeal. Studies have shown that most buyers won't get out of their car if they pull up to a house with an ugly yard.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for a third straight month in June, a new report out Tuesday shows.
The National Association of Realtors says sales climbed 2.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million.
"I think its a good month. We're certainly headed in the right direction. We pulled up after a pretty weak spring market and we're anticipating a stronger second half of the year," says Ken Fears, a senior economist at the National Association of Realtors.
In another good sign, sales are at the highest pace in eight months. But, as Fears points out, they are still down from June 2013.
"We're still down about 2.3 percent from last year, but that year over year gap continues to contract," he says.
AbleStock.com/Thinkstock(PALM SPRINGS, Calif.) -- An Airbnb host has found out the hard way that the legal protections for tenants in some states means that guests could end up staying in their homes rent free for up to three months.
A guest who made a reservation to stay in Cory Tschogl’s Palm Springs, California, home for more than a month is now refusing to leave and reportedly told her that he has a legal right to the domicile.
Tschogl told Business Insider that she tried to get the guest, who calls himself Maksym, to leave after the first month of his scheduled 44-day stay, but now he claims to have consulted an attorney who told him that even though he did not pay past the first month, he is legally occupying the home.
A real estate attorney told ABC News that Makysm may make out with a few rent-free months out of the deal.
In this particular case, the man is legally considered a tenant and Tschogl his landlord because they had an agreement that extended past one month.
“The landlord-tenant law in California is very specific in terms of the process that a landlord has to take for an eviction,” attorney Robert Spitz told ABC News.
There are two notification processes for eviction in California, Spitz explained: A three-day notice of eviction and a 30-day notice, and though Spitz is not personally involved in this case, the timing suggests that Tschogl will have to give a 30-day notice as part of a formal legal filing.
Tschogl could not be reached for comment by ABC News.
“At the end of the day they're liable for the amount of money that they owe but the landlord is still frustrated because the landlord is unable to get possession of the property back during that period. The unlawful detainment process can take up to two months,” Spitz said. “If the guy's a deadbeat, what does he care? He paid one month and he gets three months.”
Landlord-tenant law varies by state, but New York City real estate attorney Loraine Nadel told ABC News that it would be a similar situation if a guest overstayed their welcome in Manhattan.
“In New York State, if they’re less than 30 days, the police will usually evict them. Once they’re there for more than 30 days, they would have to go to court,” Nadel said. “The landlord would win, there’s no way the tenant would be able stay forever, but maybe a couple months and they could have to pay a use-and-occupancy [fee] rather than rent.”
For their part, Airbnb said that they have been working with Tschogl after she reported the signs of trouble at the beginning of Maksym’s stay, which began on May 25 and was supposed to end on July 8 but shows no signs of ending.
“Officials from our team have contacted this host and she has been paid the full cost of the reservation and we're working with her to provide additional legal support as we move forward,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas told ABC News. “We're also reviewing our procedures and making changes to our platform to give hosts more information about long-term reservations.”
Spitz said that cases like this one happen more frequently than expected, citing a recent incident where a nanny refused to leave her employer’s home in California last month. That said, he said there are steps landlords can take to protect themselves.
“It’s incumbent on the landlord to do a credit check on their tenants,” Spitz said.
Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Almost everyone has experienced being put on hold on the phone. Between the music selection and the automated voice that thanks you for calling, many encounters can be frustrating and seemingly endless.
Meet Aaron Kleinhandler, whose job it is to keep you on the line.
“Nobody wants to be on hold,” Kleinhandler, who essentially makes a living out of it, told ABC News.
Kleinhandler is a founder and CEO of Spectrio, a Florida-based company that produces more than 4,000 custom hold messages for companies each month, making him an on-hold guru of sorts for companies looking to keep customers engaged for as long as possible.
Seemingly random music and a voice asking you to “please hold for the next available representative” may seem simple enough, but the science of being put on hold can be surprisingly complex.
“People stay on the line less than 30 to 45 seconds,” said Kleinhandler, noting that the messages have a very short time to convince callers to stay engaged in the call before hanging up.
First, “we profile a client and figure out what his brand voice is,” said Kleinhandler. “We find the image that the client wants to portray.”
“The hardest part is trying to get businesses to think like their client being put on hold,” he explained. “You have no idea how many companies will say ‘We don’t put our people on hold.’”
“Then, our creative team will write a script,” said Kleinhandler. The automated voice on the other end of the line isn’t just feeding you any old excuse for putting you on hold -- a careful script is specifically written for each business based on the personalities of their clientele.
Phase three: finding the perfect voice.
Suzette is “young, relatable, inviting and polished.” Beverly is “adaptable, pleasant, authentic and relatable.” Walt is “adaptable and friendly with a positive vibe.”
Based on descriptions that sound like dating website profiles, Kleinhandler helps companies to pick from 29 female and 18 male voices, all with distinct "personalities."
“Women’s voices always seem to be more popular,” said Kleinhandler. “People find them more calming. If you’re going to be taking the customer’s time away, you don’t want to sound like a car salesman.”
After finding the right soothing voice to keep your customers calm, it’s time to choose the music that will keep callers tapping along while they wait.
“What is the overall vibe or tone that you would like to convey at your place of business?” is just one example of the questions that go into choosing the right tune. “Calm and serene? Energetic and lively? Hip and modern?”
From serene smooth jazz and classical music choices to the more upbeat Caribbean and world beat options, there are 11 genres for companies to choose from.
“[On hold] music now tends to be more of a contemporary drive,” said Kleinhandler, “Ten to 15 years ago it was more classical.”
Regardless of the genre, all selections are purely instrumental.
“You don’t want to have music that has words in it,” said Kleinhandler, who explains that bombarding customers with too many messages is overwhelming.
When the thorough research and selection process has been completed, businesses are sent on their way, hopefully with less frustrated clients waiting to speak to a representative.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that Kleinhandler admits that being on hold is downright annoying.
“I hate being on hold,” said Kleinhandler. “But now I have a better appreciation of it.”
McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- McDonald’s and Coca-Cola both missed analysts estimates this quarter, with McDonald’s posting a one-percent drop in profits while Coke saw a nearly three-percent decline in revenues.
The fast-food and soda maker stood in contrast with Chipotle, which posted a 25% bump in revenues Monday after the bell. The chain restaurant reported sales up 17 percent from last year.
Domino’s reported an 8.8 percent boost in revenue and 15.6 percent increase in net revenue.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple CEO Tim Cook is likely Tuesday afternoon to again promise that exciting new products are on the way. But that's probably all he'll say about the topic when he speaks after the company releases its earnings.
Here are the things Apple fans really want to know but probably won't hear about in the earnings announcement:
1. Bigger, Badder iPhone 6?
In Tuesday's conference call with analysts, Apple's CEO and CFO may get pelted with questions about reportedly large manufacturing volume ahead of a potential iPhone 6. The company reportedly asked suppliers to manufacture 70 million to 80 million units of two large-screen iPhones, the Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday, according to unnamed sources. The next iPhones may have a larger screen of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches diagonally, the newspaper said, as opposed to the latest iPhone 5S and cheaper 5C that measure 4 inches. Apple did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
2. The Unicorn: iWatch
Apple has never used the word iWatch, but reports have consistently referred to this mystical gadget. The only thing media and analysts have been told is that multiple product categories will be announced this year.
3. The Stepsister: iPhone 5C Success/Failure
While Apple announces how many iPhones the company sells, the company does not provide details of which iPhone models were the most popular. The company won't reveal how many iPhone 5C models were sold, as opposed to the 5S. The general number of iPhones sold, however, typically gives clues about whether customers may be waiting for the "next" model.
4. Cheaper Macs Paying Off?
In April, the company introduced an updated Macbook Air starting at $899 for an 11-inch model and $999 for a 13-inch one -- $100 cheaper than the previous prices. The company will announce how many Mac computers it sold, but it won't provide specific numbers on the Macbook Air or iMac. Last month, the company introduced a cheaper version of the all-in-one iMac desktop at $1,099.
5. iPad: Is Smaller Better?
Apple iPad sales have been relatively slow over the past year, so any signs of growth will be encouraging. But we may not necessarily hear if the iPad mini is beating the larger model, or vice versa. In March, Apple replaced the entry-level $399 iPad 2 with a 9.7-inch Retina display. Back in November, the 7.9-inch iPad mini with Retina display was introduced.